1. Connection and Drama
Being able to hold silence whilst relating with an audience is an incredibly powerful device. Making full eye contact with individuals in your audience develops a deep connection. We are all hard wired to increase our attention during silence. Opening your presentation with a controversial statement or powerful quote and leaving time for your audience to absorb it will add a tangible sense of drama.
In 2007 when Steve Jobs launched Apple’s game changing iPhone, he took a 13 second pause including a drink of bottled water before he opened with “This is a day I’ve been looking forward to, for two and a half years”. This opening statement created a tangible sense of drama and excitement. He then paused for 6 seconds before talking about how lucky he was to be apart of Apple. It’s a brilliant example of creating drama and excitement.
Steve Jobs was a skilled presenter who understood the value of allowing his audience time to absorb his messages. On average he could take eight long pauses per minute during his keynote presentations. That may seem like a lot, but his presentation where fluid, clear and always had time for humour.
A pause gives your audience time to fully comprehend and process that controversial statement or big piece of data you’ve just shared. It may well be that what you are saying is complex or shocking, giving the audience time to reflect shows that you are considering them.
Being at ease with silence will give you a natural sense of gravity. Look at the way Presidents and Prime Ministers speak. Bill Clinton is a great example of this; he allows well-paced pauses to give him a very natural sense of authority. The next time you watch an A list movie star being interviewed, watch how they can use the pause to add greater significance to working with the director or the lengths they went to in preparing for the role. We tend to assume someone pausing to answer a question is reflecting on both the question and giving weight to their answer. In reality this may or may not be the case, but what we perceive is often what we then believe to be true.
'If the audience turns up on Tuesday and you turn up on Wednesday... that's bad timing.' - Arnold Brown
Holding that pause for your audience to have time to laugh is also a crucial part of the power of a pause. It’s often said that ‘timing is everything’ when it comes to comedy. So if you know something may be funny to your audience give them time to enjoy laughing before moving on.
Finding a good reason to move in silence is also another tool you can use to add an extra dimension to your presentations. Allowing your audience to consider a statement or question whilst heading to take a drink or show us your latest product, could add tension, but above all it well tell your audience that you are ok. If we think you are happy not to speak whilst doing what you need to do, then we will relax. If we are relaxed we are more likely to receive the information you need to pass on.
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