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Alberta, Canada
Family Law Lawyer, Professional Speaker & Author

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Power of the Pause

We all know to avoid using fillers in our speech, such as “um,” “uh,” or “like.”  Think of these word fillers as the public speaking equivalent of junk food.  Although you’re making sounds when you utter these fillers, they are devoid of content.  Sometimes, the use of fillers can become a habit that we may not even be aware of during public or professional speaking.  I’m sure that you know of some people who pepper their speech with “like” and “you know what I mean.”  You may also find that you use fillers when you are thinking of what to say next, how to respond to a question or have forgotten what you were about to say.  Regardless of the reasons, when it comes to public and professional speaking, you must train yourself to never use these sorts of fillers.
There is a very easy and effective tool for eliminating fillers from your public and professional speaking.  If you train yourself to use this tool not only will your speaking appear more professional, poised and polished but you will actually increase the level of your audience’s interest.  The trick to replacing filler with substance is to learn to use a powerful pause.  Whenever you feel the itch to utter a filler, simply take a deep (but not perceptibly deep!) breath to regain your focus and rhythm.  Don’t make any sound and don’t utter any fillers, just pause and be silent.  The time of your pause will usually feel longer to you than your audience, so don’t worry about telegraphing anything negative by the use of a pause.  Ultimately, a commanding use of a pause exhibits confidence, unlike the use of a filler.
If you find that your nervousness causes you to speak a bit too quickly, then you must try to infuse more frequent pauses between your sentences or phrases.  This technique will give you greater time to allow your thoughts to catch up with your words.  It also helps you to stay more focused and in command of your speaking.  Training yourself to comfortably use the pause will prevent the use of repetitive fillers.
An additional benefit of the pause is that a well-placed pause in your speech is a cue to your audience to intensify their focus on you.  The change in rhythm and lack of sound automatically causes your audience to look at you.  Your listeners will become more curious as to what you are about to say next.  By using the powerful pause instead of a filler, you have actually heightened the energy in the room and have drawn attention to you. 
Next time you give a professional presentation or deliver a speech, use the pause to your benefit.  Experience the power of the pause to captivate your audience in public speaking.

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