In every speaking opportunity (be it one-on-one or in a group), there is one skill that will enhance your message and help the audience remember what you have said. It is a very effective tool.
(When scripted, Barack Obama uses the pause well, which highlights many of his strengths including clarity. When off the TelePrompTer, he fills the space between sentences with ums and ahs, making him sound tentative and obfuscating the message.)
Here’s how the pause enhances clarity. You should always stop at the end of every sentence. Because you are stopping and remaining silent for a moment, you are giving the listener a chance to process or reflect upon what you have said; the message becomes clearer. When you run sentences together, listeners might be keeping up with you, but they don’t have time to really absorb the information. Retention plummets; nothing stands out.
Additionally, this silence allows you to take a breath and think about what you are going to say next. When you give yourself a moment to think, you can avoid redundancies and digressions and focus on your next sentence. You become clearer.
To practice, say a sentence. Then tap your finger twice on the desk. Then say another sentence and tap. Repeat this pattern until you get into the habit of pausing at the end of every phrase. As you practice for the next three weeks, you will eventually vary the pace to sound less mechanical – yet achieve the goal of sounding clear.
In the next blog, I’ll talk about the other benefits of pausing.