pause: moments to pause in your speech

11 moments in your speech where you should pause

Your words are as important as your silences. Pausing is vital to an understandable, engaging, and successful speech. However, knowing when and how to pause can be a challenge for a speaker.

Mostly, you should follow your intuition. While training, rehearse to find out where the pauses feel more natural and comfortable for you. Record and watch yourself later to make sure you’ve got it.

Nonetheless, there are some moments when a pause is indispensable.

1. Before you start talking

Enter the stage, pause, and smile at your audience. Take your time before starting to speak, observe the people in front of you, and take a deep breath. Don’t forget your smile! You’ll look more confident.

2. Key points and important messages

Pauses help you to keep the attention of the audience. Use them in critical moments of your speech. Usually, before and after, you explain a crucial point or essential message. This strategically placed pauses will help your audience to realize which ideas are more important.

3. Vital facts or shocking statistics

If you enumerate a group of points, use a pause in between to help your audience to absorb each one of them. If it is something shocking or unexpected, make that pause even longer.

One single statistic can be what they need to pay attention to you. Use it in your favor.

4. Important quotations

If you choose to use a quote, select something relevant to your topic. A good quote is supposed to leave people thinking about it. Give your audience time to do that: think about those words and understand their meaning.

5. Rhetorical questions

When you ask your audience a question, even if you are not waiting for an answer, you must pause. Allow them to reflect on it. Give them time to answer it, even if it is just inside their heads.

6. Key names, dates, or events

Remember History classes? Did you have a teacher that seemed to be dumping information on you non-stop? A bunch of names, dates, and events that you couldn’t follow. Sometimes you didn’t even have the time to write them down. No? I did, and like me, many members of your audience.

That’s not what you want them to think about while listening to you. That’s not the speaker you want to be. They will lose interest from the first thing they can’t follow.

Give them only the most relevant names, dates, or events. The rest you can write down in some brochure and handle it to them later. Make a pause between them to give your audience time to organize the information mentally.

7. Most significant benefits of your product or service

If you step up in front of an audience to present a product or service, you can’t let your audience step over the most important details about it. Pausing after an affirmation tells your audience that what you just said was important. They will more likely pay attention.

Pause after the characteristics you consider more important, or you think your audience will like best. They will more easily retain that information.

8. During stories

Don’t rush through your stories as if you were late to catch a train. They are extremely important in creating a connection with the audience. Stories develop empathy. A good story can close a deal.

Pause consciously to help raise suspense and/or anticipation in your audience.

9. When showing the impact or consequences of the problem in debate

If you’re debating a problem with your team, the most important idea for them to keep is: why is this a problem? What are the consequences of it?

Strategically pausing before giving them that insight will make them more attentive and aware of the importance of what you are going to say next.

10. Before moving to the next topic

Usually, when giving a presentation, you have a list of topics to talk about. Don’t rush over them. It is preferable to have fewer topics and to have your audience following your ideas, right?

Before moving on to a new topic, make a pause. It helps the audience to organize their ideas.

11. Instead of filler words

There are many filler words, from the simple “hm” “Ah,” “Uh,” to the more “sophisticated” little sentences to fill the space and avoid silence. Don’t do it.

Every time you need a pause to organize your thoughts, for example, simply remain silent. Don’t say anything. It looks better and creates more impact on what you are going to say next.

Pause for a better speech

Pausing is one of the most important techniques in public speaking, and yet, so many speakers ignore it.

You need to reorganize your ideas, catch the audience’s attention, or simply let them think about what you have to say. A strategically located pause can change a whole speech.

A meaningful silence is always better than meaningless words.


Image Credits: Photo created by freepik.

Cátia is a psychologist who is passionate about helping children develop and train social skills.


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