Take a moment and think back to the last moving, powerful speech you heard. As I am writing this and reflecting, I think back to Obama's presidential victory speech in 2008. I remember I was in a local tavern with work colleagues. As the newly elected President spoke, his words were powerful and the pauses he used helped convey the importance and magnitude of that moment.
You will notice that pauses are prevalent in every amazing speech. As a Toastmaster, I am privileged to listen to new speakers and have personally observed that the better speech always contains pauses and results in the speaker winning the best speaker ribbon.
"The most precious things in speech are the pauses." ~ Sir Ralph Richardson
When considering the power of pausing, there are three main points that come to mind:
- Pauses allow reflection
- Pauses convey importance
- Pauses show credibility
When you ask your audience a rhetorical question, you do not expect an answer, however you are asking for a reason. This reason may be to invoke emotion, to connect to your audience by linking the question to a memory, or to invoke thought or reasoning.
Regardless of this reason, your audience requires time to digest the question and attempt to answer it internally.
If you do not pause and move on to the answer, or the next statement, your audience may feel overwhelmed and, most of the time, will miss your next statement as they are still thinking about your question!
How will they know that important statement you just made is indeed important?
When making a statement that you want your audience to ponder, pausing is a great strategy. By pausing, your audience will go back to your last statement and replay it in their minds.
I find that this holds true in every situation, whether you are speaking to an audience of thousands or simply one-on-one with a colleague or friend. By pausing when you speak, you sound more credible and exude confidence.
The power of pausing is real and the great part about this is that you can take advantage of this today.
I encourage you to practice this at any time. The next time you talk to your friends, think about the power of pausing and add an extra pause or two. They may immediately perceive a difference in the way you are speaking or, if not, they will at the very least have subconsciously enjoyed hearing what you had to say in a well-presented manner.
"The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause." ~ Mark Twain