Enjoy The Silence
Hearing and enjoying the silence is extremely important because there isn’t much of it in our lives. As with so many other elements that aren’t available in abundance, it becomes valuable, rare, welcome, comforting, unique, desired, stylish, distinguished, elegant and, yes, enjoyable. This lack-based value applies to speech-craft with very powerful consequences when it is used skillfully and purposefully, and with devastating consequences when not used at all.
Pauses are not just important but essential in any speech for the following 10 Reasons:
- They provide your delivery with an aura of gravitas, control, eloquence, intrigue, sophistication and a ‘give me more, please’ reaction in the audience that sets your speech apart
- They give you, the speaker, time to breathe, rest, think, assess and connect more deeply with your audience
- They give the audience time to breathe, rest, digest everything you’ve said so far, get ready for what you are about to say next and connect more deeply with you
- They balance the speed of your speech
- They facilitate vocal variety
- They facilitate transitions between ideas and parts of your speech and story
- They fill the room
- They allow you to address anything that might be going wrong. You may need a sip of water, to adjust a piece of clothing that is distracting you and the audience, to reorganize your notes (if you are using them), to check (very discreetly, almost invisibly) the time you have left or myriad other issues
- Particularly in story-telling and personal speeches, they build intensity, drama, emotion and anticipation.
- They feel, look and sound good!
As with all elements of public speaking, mastering pauses and their use in a speech comes with practice – and lots of it. I recommend starting with one or two and adding more as your speeches become longer and more complex. The number of pauses is directly proportional to the length of the speech but I wouldn’t recommend having more than three or four long ones (around three to five seconds) in a speech of up to 15 minutes. You can, of course, play with the number of pauses you have and how long they are.
All this depends on what you are using pauses for and when. And this takes me to the second key point in this article which is what I call the silence’s purposefulness. To understand this concept, and the use and need of pauses in speeches in general, I encourage you to witness the longest and most powerful ‘pause’ I have seen or heard in a public speech, ever! It happened during a United Nations address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015 (type ‘Netanyahu’s 44-seconds UN silence’ on any search engine and it will come up amongst the top results).
Make sure you don’t use pauses just for the sake of it. They ought to have a purpose: drama, emphasis, reflection, a moment to think, intimacy, concern, importance – the list is as long as you want to make it. If they don’t have a purpose, they may come across as artificial and unnecessary stops that break the flow of the speech. So, yes, pauses are important, but you need to give some thought as to why and where in the speech you are using them.
As I bring this article to an end, and so you can digest its importance, take a moment to stop reading and ENJOY THE SILENCE…