Skilled presenters use silence to add to the effectiveness and polish of a program.
The shortest pauses, which last anywhere from one-half to two seconds, are for the simple purpose of separating your thoughts. All you have to remember is to slow down. Give the audience a fighting chance to absorb what you are saying. Change your voice inflection slightly at the end of each thought to cue the audience the next thought is coming. Also, use a short pause before and after any phrase or word you want to emphasize.
Another neat pause is known as a spontaneity pause. This is a planned ‘unplanned’ pause used so that you don’t look too rehearsed. You might apply this pause when you want to pretend to search for a word or phrase that you already know.
Long pauses of more than three seconds are very powerful. They command the audience to think about what you just said, that is if what you just said was worth thinking about.
Timing of Pause
When you are speaking, timing is not so much knowing when to speak, but knowing when to pause. A pause lets the audience catch up and draw pictures in their mind. It is the audience’s signal to imagine.
A pause just before and just after your punch line in joking telling gives the audience a chance to laugh. Absolutely do not continue speaking when laughter is expected. Laughter is hard to get and easy to discourage. Hold eye contact a little bit longer than you think you should when delivering punch lines.
The size of your audience will affect your timing. Your presentation will take less time to deliver to smaller audiences. Smaller audiences should mean quicker laughter. Conversely, presentations will take longer for larger crowd. Your pauses will be longer to compensate for the wave effect created because of the physical distance between you and the back row of the audience.
Overall don’t be afraid to be quiet once in a while. It can dramatically increase your impact.