“The most precious things in speech are the pauses.” – Sir Ralph Richardson
Sometimes, saying nothing at all can speak volumes. A well-timed pause can be one of the most important rhetorical devices in a speaker’s arsenal. So, when should you pause?
Here are two great times to use the power of the pause:
(1) After asking a question. Give the audience times to ponder your questions in their own minds. This will help draw them into what you’re talking about. Imagine hearing a speaker ask: “What are you doing to ensure your family has a safe and secure future?” If the speaker pauses, members of the audiences will likely think about the question and then be curious to hear what the speaker has to say next.
(2) When the audience is reacting. If the audience is applauding, laughing or otherwise reacting to your words, pause for a moment. Don’t walk on your adulation. Savor the moment! Don’t start talking until the audience has finished reacting. If they are reacting, they are engaged. Don’t cut their engagement short. If you do start speaking, the audience won’t be able to clearly hear what you’re going to say next and you’ll lose the opportunity to fully engage them. If you pause, it allows those who are applauding or laughing to fully engage in the moment. A pause also will allow members of the audience who may not be applauding or laughing to hear those who are reacting and that just might help draw them into the speech.
When it’s done correctly, a pause can move an audience in a unique way. Give it a try and see how the sounds of silence can work for you.