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3 Reasons to Perfect Your Pause



by Natalie Gallagher

When we are scared, anxious, or excessively nervous, our body kicks into fight-or-flight mode, a natural survival instinct.

Because public speaking can be a terrifying experience for many, the brain can trigger the “flight” response, and cause us to speak as quickly as possible in order to get off the stage as soon as possible. For me, speaking incredibly fast was one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome to improve my speaking. On stage, my nerves combined with excitement over my topic made it sound like I was auditioning to be an auctioneer!

But by practicing adding planned, specific pauses, I learned to slow down, and calm down, in order to give much better speeches.  Here are 3 reasons why adding and practicing pauses will make you a better speaker:

  1. Adding planned pauses will help calm nerves.

Many speakers give a speech, sit down, and realize they didn’t take a breath the entire time they were speaking. Adding a planned pause will give you a chance to stop, take a deep breath, and then continue. Controlling your breathing and taking deep breaths helps to calm your nerves,

  1. Planned pauses help the audience absorb more information.

Have you ever been in the audience when the speaker was tearing through their material at a break-neck pace? How much did you remember? How much did you understand? Practicing adding specific pauses in your speech will give your audience time to process and recall your information.

  1. Pauses add dramatic effect and emphasis in the speech.

During the course of your speech, if you tell a joke, ask a rhetorical question, or make a key point, adding a pause afterwards adds the emphasis necessary for these speech elements to be effective. A coach once told me, “Give them the time to laugh at the joke!” I didn’t realize I was running right over the audience response when I failed to pause after I’d said something that was intended to have impact.

Adding the pause is an underrated, but highly valuable presenting skill. It demonstrates confidence, calmness, and awareness of the audience. Practice adding pauses in your next speech, and let us know how it works!

Natalie Gallagher is a skilled storyteller who works closely with clients to help them express their unique personalities through written and spoken content.  Contact Natalie through email at ngallagher@sociallinus.com.