Speakers, embrace the power of pauses

From the moment you step on stage to the moment after you’ve delivered your brilliant presentation, make the most of these nonverbal opportunities.

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“Thou shalt fill up every second of your presentation with words.”

I don’t know when this became a pervasive presentation commandment, but it’s time to break this particular stone tablet with vigor. I promise you won’t go to presentation hell; you’ll send your audience to heaven.

Pauses are important for both speakers and audiences.

Pause before you begin

A huge mistake most speakers make is that they run up on stage and launch into their speech—and then spend the rest of their stage time chasing their breath.

Never start speaking when you’re out of breath.

Walk on the stage. Pause. Breathe. Make eye contact. Smile. Take a deep breath. Begin.

There’s nothing wrong with a five-second pause before you begin your talk. It allows you to catch your breath and lets your audience transition from the person making the introduction to you, the speaker.

Ask a question, then pause

If you pose a question to the audience, even if it’s a question that is meant just for reflection, you must pause.

If you ask a question and keep right on going, it sends a potent message that you don’t care what the audience thinks.

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