Pause to Boost Delivery and Credibility
by Allan Kaufman and Allan Misch
(These 2 killer Presentation Truths are excerpts from our book and 2-CD set, Presentation Truths Revealed—101 Universal Principles to Propel Your Speaking Success.)
Mark Twain said, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”
There are times when pausing is the most appropriate strategy for building credibility according to two important Presentation Truths — one that addresses useless filler words and the other that focuses on pausing.
Do you suffer from Filleritis?
That’s a nasty disease where you use unnecessary, useless words instead of pausing.
Filleritis attacks your subconscious and hangs out there. You have it when you use words such as “ah,” “er,” “um,” “uh,” “you know,” “ok,” “and uh,” “soooooo,” and “well.”
Fortunately, Filleritis is curable if you apply Truth #76.
Fill brief, empty time while you think with pauses instead of useless filler words, such as “ah,” “er,” “um,” and others, that slow your timing; leave the impression that you are unprepared or nervous; and distract from your message.
Why might you use filler words?
Because you are uncomfortable with the empty time between words and ideas and cannot judge the length of this empty time. Usually it is only a brief moment, but it seems long, so you feel compelled to say something. You fill the time with a filler word.
The way you cure Filleritis is to record your presentation when you practice it and deliver it. Count the filler words or have a friend in the audience count your filler words.
Tell yourself that instead of using a filler word, you will just pause.
Continue to repeat this process each time you speak. By doing this, you become consciously aware that you have Filleritis. Then, whenever you speak and are about to use a filler word, consciously command yourself to pause instead.
Now, you are reprogramming your subconscious with antibiotic pauses and killing your Filleritis.
If you think about it, pausing is beneficial. It allows your audience to hear only those words that communicate your message. And when you replace filler words with brief pauses, you appear more credible and prepared.
When you should pause
There are other times when you should use pauses according to Presentation Truth #75.
Pauses enhance your presentation. Pause before you deliver an important point, just before you deliver a joke’s punch line, and when you want to focus your audience’s attention on you.
Pausing before you make a point causes your audience to lean forward and pay attention. Their visual and auditory concentration is on you.
Pausing briefly before delivering a joke’s punch line is important. It creates a transition from the joke’s set-up to the punch line, and gives your audience time to process the joke.
Without the pause, the set-up and punch line run together. You ruin the rhythm and the verbal surprise that make a joke funny.
Whenever you want your audience’s complete attention, just pause, do not say anything; just wait. Wait until you see that you have their attention.
Sometimes, what you do not say is as important, or more important, than what you do say. Fight Filleritis with pauses. Pause before you make an important point. Pause before a joke’s punch line. And pause when you want to command your audience’s attention.
We agree with songwriter Bob Dillon, who said, “Experience teaches us that silence terrifies people the most.”
You will be more credible and appear polished when you take the time to pause.
To learn more strategies on how to present successfully, check out our learning resource, Presentation Truths Revealed—101 Universal Principles to Propel Your Speaking Success.