Behind effective presenting lies a world of tools and techniques, not to mention a range of complex human mindsets that may help or hinder the process.
However, one technique that I consider to be indispensable is the technique of using pauses in your presentation.
It is simple and when used well, powerful so why is it so rarely used in company presentations?
Perhaps it is because many people approach their presentations in the ‘self-survival’ mode. When you are standing in front of an audience, it is natural to want to give your presentation as quickly as possible and then sit back down again. The faster you get it over with, the less chance there is of things going wrong. Besides, if you have been allotted only 15 or 20 minutes and you have a lot of slides to get through, well, it’s seems logical to go as fast as possible, right? Wrong!
Pausing is one of the most important presentation tools you have as a speaker
Here are the reasons why:
- A pause, held with the right energy demonstrates confidence.
- A pause, held with the right energy and good eye contact demonstrates even more confidence.
- Pausing helps your audience to digest your message.
- Pausing gives you time to order the thoughts in your head so they come out of your mouth in a ‘tidy fashion’ and most importantly, as planned.
We often overestimate how much information the audience can take in. Although people can teach themselves to speed-read, nobody can teach themselves to ‘speed-listen’. For any listener, however keen they are to learn or however intelligent they might be, there has to be time for the words to be processed by the brain and digested after they have entered via the ear. If you don’t allow time for this sorting and digesting process, the words which have already entered the listener’s brain will be pushed aside by the new words coming in. And if this continues to happen right to the end of the presentation, very little information will have been retained by the listener.
So when should you pause in your presentation?
You need to pause right at the beginning of your presentation to make sure the audience is giving you their full attention and is ready to listen.
You need to pause before and after each main point. Pausing before the point adds suspense. Pausing afterwards emphasises the point’s importance and gives the audience time to digest it and reflect on it.
You need to pause when you first show a slide to allow people to take it in.
Don’t be shy about pauses. Silence is a necessity in effective oral communication. Embrace, plan and practice your pausing and you will quickly see how your presentation message gains more impact.