“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
Have you harnessed the power of silence in your presentations?
By silence I don’t mean pauses where you search for words or chase a lost train of thought.
Rather; this post is about using pauses as a delivery technique.
Sound, or the lack of it, has an impact on your thought process and memory much like visuals.
Speech pauses when done right can communicate ideas effectively and with less resistance from your audience. However, when mistimed these pauses can confuse your listeners and annoy them.
How does calculated silence affect your listeners?
Silence can help your audience catch up and process content before moving on. They assimilate and understand this information before committing it to memory.
This makes your speech intelligible to them. Well planned pauses act as signals or punctuation marks, and allow them to grasp your ideas and key messages.
Data and sensory overload can tax the listener’s brain. This makes their attention wander and reduces their ability to focus or think.
Sudden or prolonged silence does two things. It makes your audience sit up and pay attention and gives them time to sort through the data, find solutions, or make decisions.
Audience distractions are a real possibility during live presentations. An effective pause can pull a chattering or otherwise-occupied audience out of their reverie.
Sometimes, the conversation unproductively digresses or gets hijacked by a disruptor. Silence acts as a persuasive tool to get your session back on track.
You may have attended a conference where the speaker turns off the sound system and slideshow. You’re then asked to guess or think of something related to the topic, in complete silence.
Have you ever asked your presentation audience to close their eyes and imagine something?
If so, you have been using the silence technique to make your audience visualise something specific and important.
Effective pauses can stimulate creative thinking in your listeners. This allows them to get immersed in the topic, and moves them closer to your outlined path.
After an intense training session, pauses can help your audience relax a bit, before you begin a new one.
Silence can also help soothe frayed nerves after a heated panel discussion or charged Q&A moment.
Have you used the power of silence in your presentations?
Would you be interested in learning more about using well-timed pauses in your speech?