Silence can be golden: learn the power of pauses

Mark Twain once said, “there is nothing more dramatic than a rightly timed pause.”

Today, his words are still golden. Your impact as an inspiring speaker is directly related to your ability to master rightly timed pause.

Put simply, pauses amplify your words’ power.

Pauses will give your message with a sense meaning, authority and gravity. Silence allows the audience (the listener) time to catch up, digest and embrace your words. It also gives the listener sign posts on what is most important in your content. Pauses help build your cadence, the rhythm of your words, to create a tempo of conviction, passion and persuasion.

A simple rule of thumb is add a pause after every sentence or key word of meaning in a sentence.

For example, “I saw a cat,” turns into “I saw PAUSE, a cat. PAUSE”.

By adding these pauses you signal to the listener that this idea or word is important. It tells them this is the information they need to retain.

But you can go further, after every major point (paragraph) in your talk or pitch, such as a killer fact — current revenue, growth or market share- add more PAUSES.

The simplest way to do this, if you have written out your talk is simply to write “PAUSE, PAUSE, PAUSE.”

You are not going to read these out but they are gold dust for two reasons:

  1. reading these “PAUSEs” in your talk makes you stop, catch your breath and restores your voice’s cadence, and
  2. silence adds dramatic emphasis for your listeners.

Your audience now knows this was a key point. They should remember it. So, three key points, three main pauses. Locked in your listener.

Pauses can also help less confident speakers who like speed through their presentations to bitter end.

Public speaking is never a race to the finish. The audience needs to be given a chance to recover, listen and absorb your words. Part of the reason hesitant speakers race through their talks is because they fail to recognize that the written and spoken word work at two different speeds.

The average adult can read at about two or three words second. Some even faster. In normal conversation, people speak slightly slower but still at a blistering one to two words second.

However, great speakers have learned to slow down their pace down to one word a second.

It does not mean that they plod through their words at the same pace. It mean they pace their words with pauses that add emphasis. The key is to learn how to stretch your cadence, the rhythm or beat of the words, with the key words you want highlight. This will help you slow down so that your key words have maximum impact.

So next time you are pitching, presenting or speaking in front of an audience remember the power of pauses? They will help your words come alive. Just remember: stop, breathe and continue your greatness.

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About the Author

Simon Trevarthen is Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of Elevate Your Greatness (EYG). EYG helps individuals, teams and organizations unpack the secrets of success by becoming even better versions of themselves through dynamic keynotes, seminars and workshops on innovation, inspiration and presentation excellence.

To learn more about Elevate Your Greatness see

©Elevate Your Greatness

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