Most of us do no (or very little) pausing when speaking before audiences.
We neglect or are reticent to pause for two primary reasons – one voluntary and one involuntary.
The involuntary reason is that when addled by stage fright we speak quickly, and often very quickly. It’s an involuntary response to the anxiety we feel. We are roiling with excess energy created by the excitement of the moment, and that energy needs release. The principal way it’s released in this situation is through our mouths in the form of rapid-fire monologue. We talk a blue streak and audiences cannot possibly absorb the torrent of information we’re hurling at them.
The voluntary reason we don’t pause is because we fear audience members will think we’ve lost our place, forgotten our script or frozen. To pause, we falsely believe, is to send the wrong message to the audience.
The truth is quite the opposite.
Once we’re on the dais, there is nothing more beneficial to the success of our presentation than to … pause. When we pause, all kinds of good things happen, or have the potential for happening. But the most important benefit of pausing is that we breathe…
And we breathe deeply when we pause properly. When we breathe deeply, we relax. That chest full of oxygen also brings our voices to life, allowing us to emphasize key words and add cadence to our phrases and sentences. When we don’t pause we run short on oxygen; when our bodies are depleted of oxygen our delivery becomes weak and we run the risk of speaking in a reedy, monotone voice.
Pause. Breathe. Animate the voice. Bring poise to the dais.