Public Speaking Enemy #1: Pausing?



every few little words! What a difference a pause makes and the difference is huge!

To some, pausing is an elephant in the room, akin to the deadly silence… But it’s actually a key ingredient to delivering a professional presentation. It essentially helps maintain a relaxed flow that in turn helps your audience to feel more relaxed and comfortable. Of additional importance, strategic pauses allow those crucial ‘stats’ to sink in… So the truth of the matter is, pausing at the right moments may just win you the deal!
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(singing: “What a difference a pause makes, every few little words! What a difference a pause makes and the difference is huge!” [Theme tune taken from ‘What A Difference A Day Makes’, by Dinah Washington. See bottom of this post for credit details.])

So what difference does a little pause make? Well, it gives you a chance to breathe. It gives you a chance to collect your thoughts. It gives your muscles a moment to relax and recover.

Pausing helps to keep you at a slower pace and therefore helps to keep you calm. It also helps to remind you to speak slower. In fact, you’d be amazed at how a relaxed pause, two seconds even, can give you an energy boost.

I say relaxed because it’s in taking the opportunity to receive a correct inhale the way that we’ve been designed to breathe, that will cause a surge of oxygen to get round to your muscles and to give you that much needed recoup time. So what else does pausing do?

Well, it gives your audience a chance to really take in what you’ve been saying to them. A good teacher is someone who is never in a rush and takes their time to ensure that their students have clearly understood what’s being imparted to them. Is there a particular word or phrase or instruction that you want to emphasize to really ensure that your participants, your audience get clearly your message? Is there something that you want them to have the opportunity to make a note of? Allow pausing, allow pauses for those moments. We need pauses to allow the penny to drop.

If you take time in your delivery, then you will be aware of these moments. And preparation is also a very, very good idea, run through your script.
Never be afraid of a silence. I learned this when I had the opportunity to do some voluntary work for Access Radio as a DJ. It was great. I found it very daunting at first, but it didn’t take me long to realise that actually a pause of a couple of seconds, it doesn’t sound or feel as bad to the recipients as you think it might. I will just reiterate that actually those moments are really, really quite vital.

A silence is powerful and actually can be more powerful than words. It can speak louder than words.

So as you go into your presentation in your boardroom, on your computer screen, on the stage, make sure you go in confidently, as confidently as you can, by giving yourself plenty of time to run over what your presentation is about and what you’re going to be saying, grafting in those pause moments.

Theme tune taken from ‘What A Difference A Day Makes’, by Dinah Washington (1959)

The English lyrics were written by Stanley Adams, and was played by Harry Roy & his Orchestra. It was published in late 1934. The most successful early recording, in 1934, was by the Dorsey Brothers.


Stanley Adams, María Grever

Licensed to YouTube by

UMG (on behalf of Island Mercury); CMRRA, UMPG Publishing, LatinAutor, LatinAutorPerf, ASCAP, Audiam (Publishing), Polaris Hub AB, and 14 music rights societies

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