photo of man not speakingYou might have noticed a lack of blogging from me this year. This has been partly due to lots of projects which is great, but it’s also due to me working through a Foundation Certificate in Coaching Skills. This training has been a real eye opener for me and I highly recommend anyone thinking about adding coaching skills to their repertoire to look into this course. One of the biggies of the course has really been backing up what I’ve already been spreading the word on for years:

Just how powerful a pause can be.

Shutting up is a vital life skill that we all need to learn at some point in our busy lives. Conversations should always include you stopping for a sec, so that both you and the person you’re talking with can take in what you’ve just said. Shutting up now and then in conversation also means you avoid being a bore! No one enjoys conversations with someone that doesn’t shut up, especially as they’re also incredibly hard to get away from.

Shutting up when presenting can also be really effective.

You’re giving your audience time to reflect on what you’ve just said
The phrase ‘death by PowerPoint’ is inevitably backed up by droning on and on and on. If you don’t stop after you’ve made each (obviously) brilliant point, you’ll lose your audience’s interest rapidly.

You’re giving your own brain time to reflect on what you’ve just said
Did what you just said make sense to you?

Watch a theatre or film performance by a really good actor. Those who pause during a speech create an invisible force of gravitas around them. De Niro and Walken are particular geniuses of note when it comes to powerful pauses in their acting. Here’s a particularly good example from Pulp Fiction that’s NSFW.

You’re finding your way again
We all get lost sometimes when presenting. You lose your thread completely or you lose your place in your little pile of index cards or your next thought just simply floats away into the ether. Pausing gives you time to remember what your next point was supposed to be. This is also why practice is key to presenting as, if you’ve practiced your presentation at least three times, you should be able to quickly recollect your next step, just like the next step in a dance move. By shutting up, you’re not making it obvious that you’ve lost your way. Shutting up means you’re not umming or ahhing or erming your way through. You’re just pausing, reflecting, remembering and then, once you’ve found the next bit of your dance move, you speak again with your audience none the wiser.

So next time you’re getting ready for a presentation, no matter how big or small the audience, think about the pause and how you can use it. Shutting up now and again can be a very powerful thing.

For more presentation tips, take a look at another blog post or follow me on Twitter @susebb where I always retweet fabulous speakers and their public speaking tips.

Photo by Craig Sunter with Creative Commons