The pause is powerful – it can help inform, persuade, inspire and entertain. In each case the use of effective pauses will greatly enhance the presenters ability to get the information across.
We all pause naturally in everyday speech, but the length of these pauses is closely related to our speaking speed. The effective pause is much longer than the normal pause and is used at key points in a speech to allow the audience to absorb the previous point.
When speaking to inform, inserting a longer pause after giving out a nugget of information, will allow the audience time to reflect on what has just been said. Also inserting a long pause before an idea will give the audience time to get ready to take the information on board.
Think about this P..A..U..S..E. If global warming continues at the same speed, in less than 100 years London will be underwater P..A..U..S..E.
The same applies when speaking to persuade or inspire. Persuasive or inspirational speeches often conclude with a call to action. A good clear pause after this will make the audience consider taking the route suggested by the presenter.
“Are you going to eat more fruit and veg P..A..U..S..E. or just carry on with your current unhealthy lifestyle?”
When speaking to entertain the ‘extended pause’ can be used to great comic effect. By pausing just before delivering a punch line to a story with a twist, a speaker can allow the audience to contemplate a serious or mundane sentence and once this is absorbed, deliver the final line to greater effect.
“I was walking along the street today when a plant pot fell from a window and missed my shoulder by about 4 inches P..A..U..S..E. Hit me square on the head”
How long should a pause be? It’s hard to say. The effective pause should be at least twice as long as the natural pause at the end of a sentence. Some people say 2 – 3 seconds is long enough. The truth is that it will vary with circumstance and that it is almost always longer than you think.
The only way to find out is practice, practice, practice in the safe environment of your local speakers club.