Nervous public speakers tend to rush. They mumble, mutter and stammer their way through their speeches, yearning to finish and get off the stage.
Yet there’s a simple technique that calms anxious presenters: the well-timed pause.
Pauses are like adding commas to spoken text. They enable you to regroup mentally while letting audiences follow your remarks more easily.
Use these guidelines to decide when to pause:
√ Transitioning within sentences. When using words such as “but,” “because” and “however,” pause to connect the full sentence. Example: Jim has fine sales skills; (pause) however, his administrative skills need to improve.
√ Listing many items. When running down a series of action steps, reminders or statistics, pause before advancing to the next one. Otherwise, you might string them together and make it hard for others to distinguish between each item.
√ Opening prepositions. For sentences that begin with a preposition, pause before you complete the sentence. Example: Despite our best efforts, (pause) the deal fell through. This also applies when you start a sentence with an adverb. Example: Ideally, (pause) we’d file the report this week.
√ Addressing a large audience. If you’re speaking outdoors or in a high-ceiling auditorium or other expansive space, the sound of your voice may need more time to fill the area. Slow your tempo and pause more frequently between sentences to accommodate the acoustics.
— Adapted from How to Say It With Your Voice, Jeffrey Jacobi, Prentice Hall Press.