Join Jeff Ansell for an in-depth discussion in this video Power of the pause, part of Communicating with Confidence.
- How many times have you been to a lecture, workshop, seminar or speech, and the speaker was talking quickly, and at the same time speaking in a monotone? If I were to talk like this for the next few minutes would I have your attention all the way through to the end, yes or no? No, you'd be looking at your phone, you'd be thinking about dinner, anything but what the speaker is saying, but what if suddenly that fast talking monotone speaker suddenly stops talking? What happens then? The audience looks up. Now the speaker has their attention. The audience is listening but to what? Silence, the speech maker is up there talking up a storm and no one's listening, and all of a sudden they stop talking the audience is all ears.
Pauses are powerful. Pausing lets a speaker connect with people in a more meaningful way. Let's talk about pausing from the outside in, and then from the inside out. First, outside in, why listeners need you to pause. When you say something important listeners need time to think. What happens when we speak quickly is that we're not giving people ample time to hear, listen, think, process, assimilate, and store what we say.
The problem is that the fast talker has already delivered five more sentences that went right by us, because we were thinking about what they said a moment ago. Pausing gives people time to think. How long do we pause for? That's up to you. Look at the people you're talking to. Watch their faces, their facial expression will tell you if you need to stop so they can think about what you said. Now some people speak quickly out of habit, they've been doing it all their life.
Then there are those who speak quickly because they have passion for what they're talking about, and that passion is reflected through the fast way they talk. My concern is that people might think we're speaking quickly because we're nervous. That's what people do, they talk quickly when they're nervous. I've found that when people have no idea what they want to say, interestingly enough, they end up speaking faster. Now, let's talk about pausing from the inside out, what pausing accomplishes for the speaker.
Pausing shows people we're confident, compare these two approaches. I'm here to talk to you about changing your life. A lot of people I talk to treat their life like it's some sort of sentient machine that moves continuously, independently, at its own pace. They feel like cogs in that machine watching passively as it takes its course. They don't realize just how much control they actually have over their lives. Or, I'm here to talk to you about changing your life. A lot of people I talk to treat their life like it's some sort sentient machine that moves continuously, independently, at its own pace.
They feel like cogs in that machine watching passively as it takes its course. They don't realize just how much control they actually have over their lives. See and hear the difference? Here's an exercise I do to help people pause when they speak, try it with your friends or colleagues. I stand in the back of the room and I raise and lower my hand as if I'm a traffic cop. When I raise my hand it means the speaker should stop talking, pause and simply breathe.
When I lower my hand they continue talking. What I'm looking for, are natural break points. Good morning. I'm grateful to be here today. In our time together, my hope is to bring you up to speed on our project so far. You get the idea. When conducting this exercise I begin by asking people to patient with me, as we're likely to step on each other's toes for a moment or so, and the exercise can get awkward especially if the speaker stops talking in the middle of a word.
I tell people that if my hand goes up and they're in the middle of a word, a phrase, a thought, or a sentence to finish it, because I don't know what they're going to say, but then to pause after completing it. I should tell you when I'm coaching people who tend to speak too quickly, I force them to pause so long you can eat lunch in the space between their words. A few more tips now on pausing. More often than not pause before and after most sentences.
When you say something truly important or meaningful, pause long enough so people can process what you just said. If you're asking a rhetorical question like, why is it necessary to pause, stop talking long enough for people to wonder, does he expect me to answer? Pausing is also effective when you're making a request or issuing a call to action. What I need right now is approval to move forward with a project as I say will yield significant benefits. Only we need to move forward on this as soon as possible.
Or, what I need right now, is approval to move forward with this project, as I say it will yield significant benefits. Only we need to move forward on this as soon as possible. By adding pauses you're able to allow your listeners to absorb all of the information you're giving them, and at the same time make you seem more confident. To help yourself remember, write the word pause or the letter P on each index card you use, or on each page of your notes, just to give yourself constant reminders to slow down.
- Organizing your thoughts
- Speaking slowly, naturally, and confidently
- Breathing properly
- Using your body to reinforce speech
- Managing facial expressions
- Handling nervousness
- Integrating voice modulation, eye contact, and hand gestures into a powerful and engaging communication style