I was thrilled some time ago to read Olivia Mitchell’s post stating that you don’t need to slow down to be an effective presenter. here
I couldn’t agree more! Likewise, I absolutely concur that pauses are useful to allow the audience to process what’s been said and of course it gives you, as the presenter, time to think about what you want to say next.
However, I think the pause can be a far more powerful tool for us as presenters. Here are 3 more reasons why the pause is so powerful
1. Message impact
Verbal pausing is like visual white space – it creates room for an idea to breathe and standout amongst all our other presentation content. To borrow Garr Reynolds’ idea ‘simplify to amplify’ – in other words, we can use pausing to amplify our key message, because a pause gets people’s attention and creates anticipation so our message arrives with a bang.
2. Authority + control
Pausing can give the appearance of authority and control, especially in the first 60-90 seconds when creating a good first impression is so critical. If you’re a nervous presenter, pausing in the first few minutes might not be easy, and it can take practice, but the results are well worth while if you want to command respect from get-go.
Pausing is important to create the impression of approachability. In a social conversation, pausing allows others to speak. In a business presentation, pausing also allows people to speak, by giving them the opportunity to ask questions. In a conference/speech situation, allowing questions may not be practical, but it still allows people to reflect and connect to the presenter. Without pausing we can appear to be steamrolling over our audience with words, so that they feel like the proverbial road kill by the time we’ve finished speaking.
So I agree with Olivia. Talk at your usual pace, but harness the power of the pause for the sake of yourself, your message and your audience.
p.s. remember it’s your personality that powers your presentation performance.