Pause & Let the Music Sink In

As practiced musicians point out: some of the music is between the notes. The same idea applies to speeches. Saying nothing here and there actually engages listener attention. It follows, then, that if you want your listeners to really hear your ideas and enjoy the experience, you should make it a habit to work in pauses.

Both speaker and listener benefit from pauses. The speaker gets a chance to rest and to look around the room to gauge attention and interest. The audience gets a chance to rest too, as well as a moment to reflect on and absorb what the speaker has to say. 

Speakers who try to cram every second with words risk coming across as anxious. That anxiety can be a distraction for listeners who may start to focus more on the speaker’s discomfort than on their ideas and opinions.

And, let’s face it: a relentless, rapid-fire delivery is hard for anyone to put up with for any length of time. Confronted with a wall of sound, even the most interested listeners will be tempted to leave, if not in body then at least in thought.

In the glare of the spotlight, it’s easy to forget to pause. So prompt yourself (or the speaker you support). Write the instruction [Pause] into the script wherever needed.

Places to pause include:
• Before you change topics
• After you ask a question
• Before you make a critical point
• After you make a critical point
• Whenever you say something that might get a laugh