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Stop And They Will Listen

You have probably experienced a presenter whose words spew like a fire hose at paragraph length.  When they finish, you can’t remember much.  They gave you no time to absorb the message, no time to respond verbally or mentally.  They were full of energy and excited about the topic, but they left you exhausted.   You wanted to yell, “STOP!”  
As a coach, I’ve encountered many a presenter who speaks this way.  My initial tendency was to suggest that they slow down.  That doesn’t work, however.  They start speaking more slowly but it’s as though someone put a pin in their balloon.  Their energy and passion dissipate.  Instead, I have learned to suggest they shorten their sentences and make a full stop at the period.  And I do mean STOP. Count 1, 2.  It must feel like an eternity to the speaker, but to the audience it’s a breath of fresh air.   In fact, that’s it exactly - a breath and a pause.
A pause serves as a magnet to a presenter.  It pulls the audience toward you.  Minds wander even with a titillating topic.  Silence grabs their attention and reignites their interest.  Think of the times when you have been listening to the radio or a podcast and suddenly the audio goes out.  That happens to me, I immediately perk up.  Yes, we listen when there is silence.  In music, Truman Fisher said, “The pause is as important as the note.”  
What do they say about jokes?  It’s all about the timing.  An anonymous author once wrote, “Many a pair of curious ears has been lured by that well-timed pause.”  
Not only do you stop at the end of the sentence to breathe, but you pause for other reasons.  You pause for impact. For example, “You can’t imagine the consequences of this action.”  You pause to encourage anticipation.  “We have something exciting to share.”  You pause when you ask a rhetorical or thought-provoking question.   “Do you have any idea how much money our company spends every day?”  You pause after a key point. “Now that we have covered the project status, I’ll move on to discuss the challenges we are encountering.”  
Planning your pauses is critical.  Too many may indicate to the audience that you’re unprepared or searching for the right word.   Too few result in “motor-mouthing”.   Remember, it’s not simply about slowing down.  A quick pace deserves intentional pauses.  Once you are conscious of taking a beat, you’ll be more aware of your own reactions to the use of pauses as you listen to podcasts, TV or radio.  
There is one final bonus for pausing…it will help to replace those pesky filler words – um, uh, o.k., you know, like, and right - with delicious silence.  Your audiences will now want to yell, “More, more,  keep talking!”


Categories: Tips Delivery Skills
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