Sometimes It’s Better Not to Speak

Patricia Fripp & Darren La Croix in Action
Patricia Fripp & Darren La Croix in Action with Coachee Dave Chase

To be a better speaker, sometimes it’s better to not to speak. Deliver your key phrase or question and then pause… and pause… and pause. Get comfortable with silence. Darren LaCroix is a World Champion of Public Speaking, professional speaker, and presentation expert. We team up for speakers’ conferences. I share this from Darren who explains why we cannot overlook the pause:

It’s Not a Pause “for Effect”
by Darren LaCroix

Have you ever heard this said about public speaking? “You must pause for effect!” What do people mean by that? Just pause to be dramatic? Really?

The more I studied the World Champions of Public Speaking who came before me, the more I came to understand that speaking, when done properly, is a two-way conversation. It’s a conversation between the speaker and the thought process within each audience member.

You’ve probably had a conversation with someone who was in a hurry, and obviously not listening to you. Didn’t they come across as rude? Unfortunately, that’s how many speakers present, without allowing time for the listener to digest and engage in the “conversation.” If a speaker pauses only long enough for their own personal comfort, they’re ignoring the fact that their audience needs time to “think.” Doesn’t this seem selfish? It is. I used to present this way myself.

So, what’s a better approach to the pause? Think about it this way, a pause can add drama, but as speakers our first objective is not drama, but rather connection with our audience.

When your presentation includes a question, first ask yourself, “If this were an actual conversation, how long would someone need to think and answer?” If you speak too soon, you’re ‘stepping’ on their thoughts, and breaking your connection with your audience.

For example:

  • If you ask a quick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, follow with a short pause.
  • If you ask your audience to think back to a time when they felt a certain way, the pause needs to be longer.

Don’t pause for effect, pause so they can reflect.

It is not about how comfortable we are as presenters – it’s about time the audience needs. As speakers, we are actually being rude when we don’t allow that time.

A mastery of the pause is like the development of a muscle. It’s not possible to instantly transform yourself, but with continual work and practice you can develop your “pause muscle.”

If you watch my World Championship speech, you’ll see in the middle of one of my longest pauses, while face down on the stage, my back heel noticeably twitched. That’s because I was very uncomfortable with the length of that pause. In my head, I was battling with my fear of the silence. I was forcing myself to listen to my coach. Knowing that I had to let my audience reflect, I was hearing his voice, “One, one thousand… two, one thousand… three, one thousand… OK, Darren, now you can get up!”

It took me time to develop my pause muscle. Knowing you need to pause and actually doing it are two different things. Only one of them helps your audience engage

Darren LaCroix & Patricia Fripp
Darren LaCroix & Patricia Fripp

with your message. Will you – more often, and long enough – pause… so your audience can reflect?

Thank you Darren!

Public Speaking – Delivery Strategy,” “Are You Speaking Too Quickly?,” “Public Speaking – Are Your Transitions Smooth?,” and  “A Good Speech Is Like a Good Conversation” are just a few more of the many complimentary public speaking resources on to help you.

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Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp works with individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.