The power of a pause

The power of a pause

Pauses aren’t easy to embrace. For many speakers, even the briefest pause can feel like an interminable silence. That’s because we tend to think faster than we speak. According to research conducted under the harvard business review, the average professional speaks at a rate of 150 words per minute. Yet, according to research from Missouri University, most of us think at 400 words per minute (depending on who you ask, the rate may be as high as 1,500 words per minute).

Because of this discrepancy, when you’re giving a speech, your perception of time is often distorted, and what feels like an eternity in your mind is actually a few short seconds for the audience.

Despite how they may feel at first, well-placed pauses make you sound calm and collected, and they help in three ways:

  • Collect your thoughts – If you lose your train of thought, a pause gives you time to get back on track. As long as the pause isn’t too long (no more than five seconds), the audience won’t hold it against you.
  • Calm your nerves – Taking a pause before starting a speech is especially important for people with a fear of public speaking, as it helps calm nerves. The tactic is useful in the middle of a speech as well. If you find yourself getting flustered, pause briefly to take a subtle deep breath and reset.
  • Build suspense – Pauses aren’t always a defensive tactic. Strategically placed silence can build suspense, emphasize a point, or give the audience time to absorb a key insight.

Like filler words, pauses give you a chance to take a break and figure out what comes next as well as show confidence and staying in control. However overused filler words are distracting and make you sound as if you don’t know what to say. Keep a look out for an upcoming piece on how to lose filler words!

Are your colleagues struggling to cope with their resilience or facing huge changes in the work place? We can help you, give us a call on 01924 666295 to find out more.