I want to share a tip today from my Public Speaking Rock Your Talk tip list. And I want to focus on just one skill from the training system and that is the Power of Pause. It’s one of the skills that can have the most punch, the most bang for the buck and using pause offers a huge amount of value and impact so I’m going to share why it’s important and a couple of ways to use it. Before I jump in, I want to say that I’m so grateful that you’re showing up and listening in here and if you stay till the end of the show I have a special something for you…so please stick around for that. Now, how did this come about…
I came back from Social Media Marketing World last week and as I mentioned in my Facebook Live on my Super Power U facebook group, which I’d love for you to join the Tribe or just like the page so we can stay connected…
as I mentioned one of the big messages at SMMW I took away from the conference is that video is critical for connecting with and making a difference in the lives of the people we want to serve. In response to that message which was repeated often throughout the conference I also heard attendees and friends say that the biggest obstacle for them in using video, either live or recorded, is that they were uncomfortable speaking without preparation or even just in general. Then I heard from a fellow podcaster friend named Louie Luc who has a show called Online Business FM that as a non-native English speaker he struggles with making his scripted text sound natural but is also nervous about going recording unscripted because he doesn’t trust that he’ll be able to effectively communicate without a script.
Something about Louie and his show here
Then the same day a highly extroverted friend of mine told me that while she’s completely comfortable and loquacious in one on one conversation she gets nervous speaking in front of more than one or two people. I was a bit shocked. This is a highly vibrant and vivacious person and I doubt many people would guess this of her.
So it occurred to me that this is a wide-ranging common challenge for people and it’s also one if addressed, with some work and a bit of practice and attention can be enormously impactful with regards to your business but also your life and relationships. If a few small tweaks can make the difference for just one person, helping them to be more comfortable getting their message out to the world or communicating their story or teaching what they know, then I will be thrilled. So I decided that I would share this most juicy tip from my speaking skills course.
Now, working with pause is just one of 8 different module areas and because as a passionate person, I’m an enthusiastic person and I’m deeply committed to making a difference in your life and your business and to having a positive impact on your success SO I tend to keep expanding and adding more…and
So today I’m just going to talk about the impact of using Pause when speaking, which is a skill I consistently work on myself because like all worthy endeavors, improving our speaking skills and building on our ability and comfort reaching out with our message is a process, not an end. It’s not a one-and-done kind of thing so we’re in this together, practicing and improving.
One of my personal challenges is that I want to value your time…and so I’m a bit of a get straight to the point person so I want to make sure my message is concise and clear and doesn’t meander but that can cost naturalness and connection. There’s tension there.
So let’s just jump and I’ll share what I know about the Power of Pause.
Here are reasons it’s important:
1) Many of you are intelligent, passionate and dedicate and enthusiastic and have a lot to say. Have you been told you speak too quickly? I know I do. I’m a fast-thinker and a fast talker and so I’m prone to rushing and often trip over my words, which is why I’m such a fan of working with PAUSE. Because I need it. So, while it can be useful for those of us who are fast talkers to slow ourselves down if you do it too much it can come across as, well, a little weird. So, I’m an advocate for not over-emphasizing speaking slowly which can often cost us our natural enthusiasm and veil or obscure our real personalities, but rather prefer to focus on using the power of pause while speaking in the style that is natural to you. In my experience doing so is much more impactful.
So, pause. Pausing is the verbal auditory translation of punctuation. My older child had when they younger a t-shirt I loved (actually it highly I bought it because I enjoyed it so much) that illustrated the importance of punctuation.
The shirt said:
Let’s Eat Grandma…
So listen to that parsed in two different ways:
Let’s Eat Grandma!
Let’s eat, grandma
Yep, totally different meanings. One has no pause or comma and the second more grandma-friendly version uses a comma and therefore a pause and is, therefore, encouraging grandma to eat rather than be eaten. And in fact, that shirt concludes that Punctuation saves lives.
So I am illustrating this in audio form…but if you are more visual there’s a graphic in the show notes.
But the point here is that punctuation matters. The meaning of words changes depending on how we implement punctuation. We can extrapolate from there to say that pausing and pacing also matter for many reasons the first of which is meaning.
It’s important if you want to get a message across that the message be comprehensible to the people listening to it. So, pause is needed to create meaning. And in our extreme example using Grandma the difference in meaning can be radically altered but even more subtle variations of punctuation, pause and pacing can alter the point you’re trying to get across as a speaker.
Now, when you are in the listener seat, have you ever found yourself listening to a talk, a lecture or even a podcast and suddenly realizing that the words are washing over you but the meaning isn’t landing or sticking? This happens to me often…and I’d hazard a guess that it happens to most people…we’re dealing with short attention spans. SO, in addition to the content making sense, there’s also the time needed for a listener to parse and to digest what you’re saying. So, not only is the meaning of your message more clear through the use of appropriate pausing but also, the ability to process the info by the listener is supported by the use of pauses.
It doesn’t matter how good the info you have to share is, if people either aren’t listening or aren’t integrating or digesting it, it’s irrelevant.
Pausing also gives you a chance to think about what you’re going to say next. And if you don’t naturally use pause, or learn how to integrate into your speech, then chances are that you will rush through and fill that space and that time with empty words like ummm, ahhh or the dreaded “like”…especially if you’re nervous. You might trip over your words, circle back and repeat yourself and I know first hand from the last three months of editing myself and my guests how commonly we speak like that…with practice and awareness little by little we can all reduce our dependency on empty words, and it’s even more necessary when we’re nervous, or if tend towards being enthusiastic or passionate. So, in those cases, it’s doubly more important to use pause.
A fourth reason to get good at using pause when speaking, and maybe one of my favorite reasons, is that it creates a sense of authenticity and immediacy and feeling of being in the moment which creates a connection with your audience. Some of this applies more in person, if you’re speaking in front of people where they can see you as opposed to audio only like we’re doing now…but as I tell people I coach, one of the greatest gifts you can give people listening to you is the experience of watching you discover what you’re going to say next. My speaking training has the subtitle Using Acting Skills to Change the World and this is a skill that comes directly from my acting training. There’s a principle in acting called “Being in the Moment” and it’s a principle in acting that I feel is generalizable to almost everything is the idea of the power of discovery and being in the moment. If you as an actor or as speaker or presenter can use the fact that you don’t know what you’re going to say next to come alive and to let people into the vulnerable moment where you discover your next idea or your next move in real time…if you can be that vulnerable, that moment might be the most powerful moment of your entire speech. It’s a gift to your audience to connect with them in a real way, to create an authentic relationship so that they feel they understand you and they see you in real time thinking of the next words, the next part of your message. It’s a powerful way to create empathy, understanding, and connection.
So, here’s a fast recap. Generally, taking time to pause serves 4 important purposes
1) It results in better pacing and more comprehensible meaning
2) It gives your audience a chance to parse what you’ve been saying so they can actually register the content
3) It gives you time to think about what you’re going to say next and reduces the dependency on empty words
4) it allows you to create an authentic connection with the audience.
Bonus reason: is more effective than “trying to slow down”.
Getting our message across to others, verbal communication is critical for anyone who wants to grow a business, build a brand, or have an impact on politics, education or even in relationships. Speaking to one or many allows us to form connections, influence the way they think and offers the chance to create change and without the ability to communicate clearly, authentically and persuasively making progress in the working world and in life in general, would be nearly impossible. For that reason, and because I know how badly the world needs now to speak and share our stories, I’m totally bullish on communication skills.
So now hopefully I’ve convinced you of the importance of pausing and pacing…let me give some examples of how you can implement this and where to begin.
I started off comparing pause and pacing to punctuation and I think returning there offers a guide. Pauses can be used similarly to punctuation. If you think in terms of short, medium and long you can equate a pause to comma, periods and paragraph indentations. Additionally, in much the same way in writing you might choose to bold a word or a phrase or put stars around it, you can use a similar notation system to remind yourself to emphasize that particular word or phrase.
So, while some people prefer to simply make bullet points and speak extemporaneously, and if you’re comfortable doing it that way, I say it’s ideal for creating authentic connection and natural speaking but the reality is that not everyone is necessarily ready to do it that way. So if you use this process now, while you’re still working with a script, you will develop the habits of pausing and pacing that will translate directly to speaking extemporaneously.
If you’re using a script, acting, reading a speech or reciting a poem what I recommend taking the words of the text and putting it in a document, if possible without the punctuation as written. Then adding very clear paragraph breaks any time you feel that you’re shifting gears and changing the topic. Each new paragraph on its own line with space in between sections. Next print the document out and then go through it with a fairly thick black pen and mark the places that sound like natural spots for commas and periods based on your interpretation or your reading of the content. And then underline the words that need special emphasis…these are the words you would put in bold if you were writing. This is the way to make the text your own.
And it’s a skill I learned from my dad when I was a child asked to recite a poem over the school’s PA system. Now I’m seriously dating myself and since I know many people won’t even know what I’m talking about I’d better explain. When I was in elementary school every morning announcements from the principal and about what was happening with clubs and other events were blasted over a speaker into each classroom. And one year when I was in grade 5 or 6 I was invited for Remembrance Day which is the Canadian equivalent of Veteran’s day, to read the poem in Flanders Fields which was written by a Canadian doctor in recognition of soldiers who fell during World War 1 about the red poppies that grew between the rows of graves. So when I was invited to do that reading on that Remembrance Day morning announcement, my dad worked through this process with me in preparation, helping me identify and mark words to emphasize and various lengths of pause to use at various parts of poem. And the result was that I felt very confident about my ability to deliver that poem in a way that was both confident and contained some the relevant emotional tone and meaning. The amazing thing is that thinking back on that poem now many, many decades later, I can still recall the general feeling and pacing of the poem…I still remember and can feel the emphasis we worked through and marked. And now I can generalize that skill set with new content and sometimes even when I’m speaking extemporaneously.
So, apparently, the roots of my podcasting career and definitely my acting career hearken back to Birch Cliff Public school in Toronto.
So, shout out to my old ‘hood.
I’m going to leave it there for you. Please practice and use the notation system either physically and or even better start to integrate short, medium and long pauses and bolded or emphasized words into your naturally speaking when presenting.
I love working with people directly on this and I just don’t have enough time in my day to do it very often but because I’m so grateful for your presence here and as a thank you for sticking around I want make a few free coaching spots available to my listeners. If this is something you would like to work on, or if you’d like some feedback on your presentation skills either audio-only or by video conferencing, then please go to the Special LINK for Episode #15 Listeners only where I’ve posted seven coaching spots to the first people who sign up. My one request is please don’t sign up if you’re not going to show up for the coaching and take advantage it. Leave it for someone who really wants it. Again that link, and it will be in the show notes, is lisabl.com/coaching go on over and sign up for one of those spots and I look forward to meeting you and helping you with your message.
As always, thanks for being here. Have a beautiful day and weekend and see you next week.
You can find the SHOW NOTES HERE.