Most people try to squeeze as much information in as possible in as short time as possible when presenting or communicating. They forget the most important fuel to words:
The seed for movement lies in the silent space. It gives the speaker time to access his or her relationship to the core message or story and own feelings to what is being said, it opens for inspiration and knowledge. In the pause, the speaker actually has time to explore for real in the now, instead of speaking from a plan. This makes the speech authentic.
But most important – the listener has time to digest what is being said and is given the opportunity to relate to his or her own sense of reality, experiences, ideas and feelings – which is the way the listener truly connects to what is being said.
The space also gives rhythm to the speech, building up suspense, releasing tensions: opening space for dynamic plays with energies and creates the room for communicating non-verbal messages.
It is like music. A piece of music without pauses or spaces is only noise. This is also true for speeches. Noise.
So, do you create music or noise when you present?
When I train people in authentic communication the issues to work upon such as speaking too fast, not taking pauses, jerking off in a heavy load of facts and words that just pour out into an anonymous or in best case – homogeneous – ocean of people (called the audience) are most common. Most speakers are actually afraid to take pauses. They think they will become boring. The truth is, that it is the continuous flow of words without pauses that makes the speech boring. There is no space to breathe or reflect. No space for presence.
What has become very clear for me during all the years when I have been working with this issue is that the real fear, which actually lies underneath this belief of being boring, is the fear of becoming touched, emotional, and present as a speaker. Because when you do, you become visible and you make a true impression. You actually become real. You also let go of a plan and you really have to be there. There is both a power and sensitivity in this. This is scary to many presenters and instead they hiding behind a waterfall of words and a never-ending power-point presentation.
As a speaker, you need time to connect. You need the time to connect to the message you want to get across, connect to your own being and connect to the listeners, their experiences and reactions.
Taking time is opening space. Taking time actually expands time. This is the experience the listener often has.
Think about it. The difference in your own experience when you attend a presentation that is heavily filled with words, facts, data and information that are spoken in fast pace and without pauses or when you attend a presentation where there are fewer words, less data, some storytelling and pauses. Which one would you feel was rushing, squeezing time and which one would open for time? Yes, it’s kind of obvious, but unfortunately this understanding is seldom used on practice.
So taking pauses is a requirement for a presentation of high quality. However, to make presenting an art, you need to be highly sensitive to the timing for different rhythms in the speech, being aware of and sensing the actual effect of the pauses. On this level, you consciously put pauses in, often in the middle of a sentence, a phrase or even a word in order to surprise your listeners, catch their attention or strengthen a message or humoristic point. This also goes hand in hand with the ability to build up a tension by alternating between both speaking fast and slows, varying your intonation and also your volume. Without the pause, this is not possible. And the audience did not come to get bored.
And the listeners will fill these spaces out. With their own reflections, experiences, and emotions.
They will engage.
And they will be present.
Bring them to the now in the pause.