After my post on Thursday about the importance of using pauses, I received some feedback concerning the importance of varying the length of those pauses while speaking. It made me thing about some of the factors that can (should) be taken into account when determining the length of those pauses:
1. Size of the Audience
– bigger audience = longer pause
2. Length of the laugh
– If they’re lauging…let them
– If they keep laughing…keep shutting up
3. Complexity of the point made.
– “Ever been to Nebraska?” = short pause
– “Think back to your first kiss” = a little more pause
– “I’ve never had a mentor ‘nice me into growth'” (Darren LaCroix) = longer pause
4. When you ask a question, let them answer it!
– This includes rhetorical questions and “raise your hand” questions
Naturally, this takes practice, and that’s okay. In fact, when you practice you should extend the pause clearly longer than you think is natural. This will help you to capture the right length when you really need it.
One other side note about planning and executing: If you plan a longer pause for the humor you know will do well, be sure to react correctly if it doesn’t. It’s going to happen to you. You’ll say something “funny”, and it won’t be received like you expect. Don’t hold the pause longer hoping your audience “get’s it”. When you realize they’re not laughing, move on. For more on humor and how to use it well, check out my friend Arlen’s humor CD at http://www.speakinginfo.com/make-the-audience-laugh.
Pausing takes practice, and you’re not going to stumble on to the right answers right away. Adding those pauses into the speech is the first step, and then the logical next step is to get the length and timing down. Just like in an individual speech, take your time and work through the process step by step, and you’ll be pausing like a pro in no time.