The Positive Power of The Pause in Presentations
January 27, 2023
As a business professional, you know that giving effective presentations is a critical skill. Whether you’re presenting to colleagues, clients, or investors, you need to learn how to use pauses in presentations.
The way you deliver your message will have a huge impact on your audience’s perception of you and your ideas. The presentation pause is a key leadership skill to learn.
One often-overlooked aspect of presentation delivery is the power of the pause. Generally, what we notice in our coaching is that people do not pause enough when presenting. While it might seem counter-intuitive, strategically placed pauses in presentations help you connect with your audience, clarify your message, and enhance your impact. You should learn when to pause in a presentation.
First, let’s define what we mean by “pause”. For presentations and talks, a pause can be as short as a half-second or as long as several seconds. It’s not about stopping your speech entirely, but rather taking a brief moment to pause before continuing.
And how often should we pause when presenting? As a rule of thumb, you’ll look great with a pause every 5-12 words. In reality, most people just don’t pause enough. So when you are practising your presentation, just keep adding more pauses and longer pauses and see what impact you make. You’ll probably find that your presentation gets better the more pauses you add. That’s the power of the pause.
So why is the presentation pause so important?
A few key reasons:
- Pauses help you connect with your audience. When you pause, you give your audience a chance to take in what you’ve just said. This helps them feel engaged in the conversation and more likely to remember what you say.
- Pauses clarify your message. If you’re presenting complex information, a pause will help your audience process what you’re saying. This makes your message more effective and easier to understand.
- Pauses add emphasis to key points. By pausing before or after an important point, you draw attention to it and help your audience remember it better.
- Pauses help you manage your nerves. If you’re feeling anxious about presenting, pausing gives you a chance to take a deep breath and compose yourself before continuing.
Watch Julian Treasure in this TED talk and see how he uses multiple, frequent pauses to keep your attention. This is a good example of the power of the pause. Note also how he pauses at the very start, before he says anything.
When Should Your Pause During a Presentation?
Here are a seven tips on when to use pauses in a talk:
- Use pauses to emphasize key points. As mentioned above, pausing before or after a particularly important point will draw attention to it.
- Use pauses to manage your nerves. If you’re feeling anxious, take a moment to pause and take a deep breath before continuing. This will help you stay calm and focused.
- Use pauses to clarify complex information. If you’re presenting something that might be difficult for your audience to understand, take a moment to pause so they can process what you’re saying.
- Use the power of the pause to connect with your audience. By pausing and making eye contact with individual members of your audience, you can create a personal connection with them.
- Use pauses to help your audience understand. Regular pauses (say every 10 words) gives your audience time to digest what they have heard.
- Use pauses to add gravitas. The improved pacing – and carefully paced pauses – make you sound more knowledgeable. Only confidence – gives you the power – to pauses when you want.
- Practice, practice, practice. The more you practice your presentation, the more comfortable you’ll be with the pacing and timing of your pauses.
It’s worth noting that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If you’re pausing too frequently or for too long, it can disrupt the flow of your presentation and distract your audience. As with any skill, the key is to find the right balance. But most people do not pause enough. Again, practice and get feedback. You’ll improve faster that way.
Practise Your Power Pauses
Try this little exercise to improve your pausing. Keep repeating this phrase and experiment with pausing more often and in different places. Record yourself.
A pause shows poise, control, confidence, use it, master it
If you really want to get good at pausing, then try this power of the pause exercise. Say this passage from the King James’ Bible (which was designed to be spoken out loud, and work out how to pause so that the meaning becomes clearer:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Pauses in presentations are an often-overlooked aspect of presentation delivery. To be more effective, more and better pauses will improve the impression you make and it will help you land your message.
By using strategic pauses in your presentations, you can connect with your audience, clarify your message, and enhance the overall impact of your presentation. So next time you’re preparing to give a presentation, don’t forget the power of the pause.
About Benjamin Ball Associates
At Benjamin Ball Associates, we help our clients to communicate better. You get presentation coaching for executives.
Over 15+ years the award-winning BBA team has coached thousands of senior executives globally to present powerfully. You get access to a transformational toolbox of presentation skills & techniques to help you become a clear, confident communicator.
We’ll help you create a powerful first impression that hooks and engages your audience immediately, and we’ll transform you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.
Speak to Louise on +44 20 7018 0922 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more and discuss transforming your speeches, pitches and presentations.
Contact us for a chat about how we can help you with your presenting.
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