Who would think that the sound of silence would scare so many people? And yet when it comes to public speaking, or for that matter speaking in general, the absence of sound can really throw us off balance. Let me explain…
As a communication and speech coach, many of my clients seek assistance with delivering presentations and preparing for interviews. One of the most common dilemmas is the ever-present vocal or verbal filler. It sounds like: uh, um, ah, er, you know, like or even persistent throat clearing (that’s a vocal filler). So often I’m asked how to remove these pesky words or sounds.
First it helps to understand why we hear persistent use of fillers and the answer is…silence is a scary sound! As a result, the majority of us opt to keep verbalizing or vocalizing. Reality is that we’re not adding anything of value when we do this; it actually sounds like noise to your listener. Sometimes we’re concerned that our listeners will be bored if they don’t hear anything or that they’ll perceive us as inadequate in some way.
And now for the facts: silence is the sign of a more confident and composed speaker. When you’re silent it’s actually a gift to your listeners. In the silence your listeners may take notes, reflect on your message, formulate questions or enjoy the image you created.
Similarly, silence is also one of the best gifts you can give yourself when you speak. It gives you time to replenish your breath supply (making you more alert), hydrate (sip water), reflect on how well you said your last point and guide you as to where you want to go with your follow-up point. Additionally, when you pause you’re directing your listeners’ attention very effectively rather than having a continual flow of speech. It’s analogous to having white space when you send a written message.
So the next time you’re speaking to one or 100 people…remember to use the Power of the Pause.
“Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen and absorb.”
As always I can’t wait to hear from you…