One of my favorite quotes by the Dalai Lama is: “Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.”
Pausing is one of the most powerful tools you have when you speak. When we get nervous, we tend to rush through our words which, unfortunately, makes us look nervous. By pausing, we can feel and appear more comfortable and confident in front of an audience.
By pausing, you can accomplish a number of things:
• You listen to your audience. How are they reacting to your words? Do they need time to catch up? Do they have questions?
• You listen to yourself. Many people find that when they pause and slow down their pace of speech, they are able to find exactly the right words. As result, they use less filler words like um’s and ah’s.
• You calm yourself down. When you pause and breathe, you counteract the fight or flight response that makes you want to run off stage. You stay present and focused.
How do you pause?
The mantra we use in all of our workshops at Global Public Speaking is “Pause and Breathe.” You do that by physically closing your mouth and breathing in through your nose. By closing your mouth, you prevent fillers from coming out and you also breathe more efficiently.
Where do you pause?
The most powerful places to pause and breathe include:
• Before you walk into a room. It calms you down and centers you; check out our video “5 ways to calm your nerves before a speech.”
• Before you start your speech or presentation. Pause, look out at the audience and smile, and then begin. It makes you look purposeful and prepared.
• Before and after your main points. Most people rush through the critical pieces of their presentation which buries the most important information. Pause and breathe before and after your main points and you will frame them up for the audience.
• At every sentence. I normally recommend breathing at every punctuation mark but, at the very least, breathe at the end of every sentence.
• Right after your last sentence. Most people finish their presentation with a quick, shallow “thank you” and then quickly get away from the spotlight. Finish your last thought, pause and look at the audience, and you’ll ensure your message hits home. If you say “thank you,” do so thoughtfully while looking right at your audience.
Pause and breathe is something you can do at a meeting as well. It gives you time to read the room an absorb what others are saying, and it lets you decide when it’s better to listen as opposed to speak up.
By learning the power of the pause, you become more thoughtful, more purposeful, and as a result, more impactful every time you communicate.