I recently had the honor of being interviewed by Fast Company about staying cool and getting in the zone for high-stakes interviews and presentations. This is a topic I could literally spend hours on (as I’m sure you know) but what they were really curious about is mastering the pause.
The pause. Why you need it.
So often we feel the need to fill dead air by talking. Maybe, mid-sentence you realize that you can explain something a different way, or maybe your peers’ quizzical faces make you think you’re not done yet. Maybe the silence is just too deafening. But you need to stop.
“The music is not in the notes but the silence in between” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
A well-executed pause is what makes comedy funny and music soulful. It’s also what will make your speech compelling.
A good pause allows your last point to really sink in. It’s a signal that what you just said is important. Otherwise you’re just diluting what you said with more words.
A good pause also gives an air of confidence. Someone who values themselves is not afraid of a little dead air.
A good pause gives you time to think. (Or at least collect yourself.) It’s that little moment that you can take to yourself to relax and get centered, and if you’re a really quick thinker – think of what to say next.
Why it’s hard.
So if pauses are so great, why aren’t you doing them already? The trouble is, it can feel incredibly awkward for the speaker. A few seconds can feel like a few minutes, and even though a pause goes hand-in-hand with confidence – many people aren’t confident enough to pull it off.
How to master it.
The way to get comfortable with pauses is to actually work them in while rehearsing. (Be it for presentations, interviews, or anything else.) Go ahead and practice pausing for up to five seconds after each point. It may feel like forever, but it actually comes off very natural to everyone on the other side.
When you feel the urge to keep talking, force yourself to STOP. Take a breath, (or even drink some water) and start your next point afresh. Yes this is hard, but practice makes perfect.
So that’s the pause. One of the simplest (and most difficult) parts of confident, engaging, and persuasive speaking.
When you’re ready to take your presentations and communication up a few more notches, contact me to find out the difference a coach can make in your confidence and clarity.
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