Have you ever looked at a garden of flowers all of one color? It can be quite pretty. If however that same garden is accented with flowers of a contrasting color – the garden becomes beautiful. While purple flowers are nice, red flowers next to them provide accent and contrast that allow purple to shine.
The same can be said for the value of silence during a presentation. Speakers often feel they need to fill the room with sound, but properly placed silence in the form of a pause adds emphasis to the words being spoken.
Too often speakers associate silence with failure on their part – after all, they are the speaker and their job is to speak. The reality is their job is not to speak, but to make a point. Including moments of quiet adds emphasis to their words and allows the audience to digest what they have heard. When we read, pauses are built in – they take the form of a period or a paragraph break.
Many speakers are afraid of silence and increase the speed of talking to avoid even a moment of quiet. When you are the one in front of a group, even a few seconds of silence may seem long and unbearable – but to the audience it feels comfortable.
In speaking, silence in the room can be a positive thing as it allows the audience to catch up with the speaker (remember, the speaker already understands the point –the audience may not). Silence allows time to think or to formulate an answer to a question asked.
Incorporate silence and pauses into your talk to create emphasis and add drama. The next time you speak, state your point and let it hang over the room while you silently count to five. Ask a question and wait for the audience to answer.
Adding space between your words and your thoughts will help the audience better understand your point and will improve your effectiveness as a speaker. Remember, it often takes an opposite to emphasize something. Stars are brighter when the sky is dark, traffic is always slower after you have been driving quickly, and a fire is warmest on a cold day. Give your audience the opportunity to experience well placed silence in the midst of your talk.
© 2007 iSpeakEASY – This speaking tip is one in a series provided to you by iSpeakEASY: We Help People Profit From Their Words.