Breathing is as important in public speaking as the actual words that you speak. I don’t mean the air you process through your lungs but the breath between words and the gap between sentences. Most importantly, breathing is important to distinguish between ideas.
A speaker with a never-breaking flow who doesn’t allow his audience to ponder what he is saying is wasting their time. How many great speeches have you heard and walked out stating how enjoyable the presentation was, but you can’t remember what they said?
Not only is the speaker’s time and effort wasted but so is the audience. Nothing changed. No one grew. No call to action was taken because the audience was engaged, but not moved. Good speakers and great speakers allow for what is called the ‘pregnant pause.’
Allow the listener to deeply reflect upon your words. Listeners need time to transform what they hear from immediate memory into short-term memory. If, as the speaker, you do not allow time for your listeners to ponder your words in short-term memory, how will they ever get to long-term memory? One word is driven out by the next word– enjoyable but gone. The message is lost and the audience is not moved to grow. Your message fills time but is scattered in space.
What are the benefits of a poignant pause?
First, the short silence gives the audience members time to agree or disagree with the speaker.
Poor speakers will think I don’t want them to disagree with me, but that is not your motivation. The short silence allows for emotional attachment with the speaker whether it is agreement or disagreement.
Second, the short silence also creates a gap of anticipation.
That emotion will move people. It is the speaker’s job to convince the listener to lean toward an agreement with you in order to respond to your call to action. The wandering listener will refocus their straying mind to find out why you’ve stopped filling the air with your voice. At that time, you will hold your audience’s attention and have the perfect time to make an important comment.
Third, the pause will also give the speaker a chance to collect their thoughts, refocus their place in the message, and take a breath.
The unbalanced speaker loses credibility. A short breath allows the speaker to reposition their body, turn a page, or look at a new section of the audience. But most importantly, the pause keeps them centered and in control of themselves, so they can present confidence in themselves and their message.
A great speaker does not speak to an audience but holds a conversation with the people. Part of that conversation is the speaker’s thoughts spoken out loud and part of that conversation is the listener’s internal thoughts.
A moment of silence grants time for that two-person conversation.
Are you using pauses for your speaking?
Great pauses are part of your speech. Count slowly (one…two…three… four) to really emphasize an important point