The “One Thing” to Be a Powerful Presenter – Pause

What is the one thing that you can do to make your presentation more powerful and effective? Pause – more often and more dramatically.

The most difficult thing to do is often the one thing that separates the masters from the masses. That’s true of many pursuits. For example, the hardest thing in personal growth is to know oneself. Similarly the most difficult presentation skill is pausing – to stop talking and say nothing.

Just the thought of pausing is painful for those who love to speak. And the idea of science is threatening to those who think they should be speaking.

Presentation skills and personal growth are related. Both require incredible self-discipline and self-confidence. To know oneself you need to ask some difficult questions and tolerate the discomfort of uncertainty. To master the pause you must become comfortable with both silence and uncertainty.

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”
Mark Twain

Why is the mastery of silence such a powerful presentation tool?
Because most people cannot tolerate the vacuum of silence.

When you are negotiating, the one who speaks less usually wins. The one who talks more tends to give away more information and more concessions. The lesson: once you’ve stated your position – shut up and listen.

Effective public speaking is less about making noise than it is about carefully crafted pauses positioned between thoughtful words.

“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.”

If you want your audience to listen better, pause in the right places. If you want your audience to hear your words better, pause more often. For example, pause just before you state something important. That builds anticipation. Pause right after you stated something important. That allows them to digest the point. And the two pauses punch up the words between.

Most speakers are afraid of silence. Yet, it is so powerful.
Peter Urs Bender

When you are the speaker you should know that your listeners can either listen or think – but not do both well at the same time. When you want them to think – shut up.

To convey more confidence pause more. Why? Because anyone who talks nonstop sounds nervous. It is as if they don’t want anyone else to challenge them.

To demonstrate real control and self-confidence pause before you start your presentation. After you have been introduced, move to center stage, plant your feet then smile while looking at the audience for at least five seconds while saying nothing. It is only five seconds and it might feel like eons for you. But it will have a magical effect on the audience. They will stop fidgeting, focus on you and be waiting for the first word out of your mouth. While you might feel uncomfortable during those five seconds, the audience will be marveling at your self-confidence and composure.

“The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes–ah, that is where the art resides!”
Arthur Schnabel
Austrian composer & pianist (1882 – 1951)

Talk less. Pause dramatically and you will deliver more powerful presentations!

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