Different Types of Pauses

I want to thank Susan Trivers for allowing me to re-post her most recent blog.  It is a very concise description of the three major types of pauses you can use in your speech or presentation. ~Barbara Kite

Susan Trivers’ blog is reprinted here with her permission.

The Power of Pauses in Your Speeches

Susan Trivers

Posted on October 10, 2012 by Susan Trivers

Do you think a pause is a pause is a pause? That as a business speaker, all you need to do is pause every so often?

I recently recognized that there are three different types of pauses and special value in each one. Join me for a short discovery tour of pauses:

1) The short silent pause between thoughts: this is the pause that most business speakers are familiar with. You stop for a moment at the end of one thought and then go on with your next idea.

The value of this pause is to give the audience a moment to catch their breath mentally. They quickly finish processing what you just said and clear their minds for the next idea. This pause is the one that often causes speakers to utter “um” or “uh” as they also transition from one idea to the next.

2) The pause after each of three words: this is a tactical pause designed to emphasize a key idea. The words need to be one (or two) syllables each so you create a memorable rhythm. They follow other content spoken in your normal cadence. Most effective are action phrases that people will remember long after they’ve gone back to their daily work. Examples:

  • We. Will. Win.
  • Build. It. Now.
  • Free. To. Go.

3) Long pauses that allow people to think: Many speakers are uncomfortable with long silences and with the idea of giving the audiences time to think. Yet these long pauses, following a directive such as “take a moment to think about how you will lead your next meeting” (or other behavior change) are very powerful for both the speaker and the audience. There’s power in maintaining your presence during the silence and there’s power when the audience appropriates meaning to themselves, turning your ideas into their own sticky ideas.

The best speakers decide when they will pause and which type of pause they will use. The write these pauses into their notes and practice and rehearse them until they are smooth and natural. Take a moment now to Plan. Your. Pauses.


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