There is so much to be said about “Pause” but most important: do not be afraid of it! Pause is your friend, use it! Here are some ways of use it as described in Graig Valentin’s blog, used here with his permit.
Before you begin your speech
Before you begin your speech, I suggest that you pause and look at your audience. I’m not talking about staring at them for 10 seconds and making everybody uncomfortable. I’m simply suggesting that you look at them and let them know you see them before you start speaking.
Why? Well, what do you think about a person who doesn’t look at you when you first meet? Some people won’t trust the person and others will think the person isn’t really interested in connecting with them. Either way, this is not good for the connection. Your audience can think the same thing about you if you don’t at least acknowledge their presence with a look that says, “I see you” before you begin your speech (i.e. as you first meet). The good news is this can be done in a couple of seconds.
After you ask a question
Whenever you ask a rhetorical question on stage, answer it in your own mind and that will give you an adequate and effective pause.
So often I see speakers ask their audiences a question but then they don’t pause long enough to let the audiences respond. If you want a verbal response then it becomes easy. However, when the question is rhetorical, it becomes slightly more difficult? Why? Because you might not know how long to pause. What you pick up here is my secret key to asking questions and pausing for the appropriate length.
Secret Key: In my mind, I answer the question I just asked as if I am in my audience.
After you say something profound
Another important reason to pause is after you say something that hits home with your audience. How do you know it hits home? You know by watching your watchers and listening to your listeners. You’ll see on their faces when it hits home. Over time, you will know which parts of your message resonate the deepest.
Key: The larger your audience, the longer you pause.
Too many speakers start feeding their audiences the next lines when the audience is still chewing on the current line. Let them finish chewing before you give them more. Many speakers know not to step on the laughter but they haven’t yet learned to avoid stepping on their audience’s thoughts and reflections.
When you make your audience laugh
Knowing and doing are two different animals. Most speakers know not to keep talking while their audience is laughing.
Why? Because stepping on the laughter is rude to your audience. Your audience wants to be heard too. That’s why they laugh. That’s why they yell out at times. That’s why they nod their heads and give you verbal cues that they’re connected with you. Let them speak in their own ways including laughter.
The key is to get the laugh, pause, and then come back in at the very end of the laughter just as it’s dying down.
Keep in mind that laughter from a large audience requires a longer pause because it takes them longer to laugh. That’s why, each year, I see contestants in speech contests go over time. Why? They underestimate how long it takes those larger audiences to laugh.
Pause you give inside of your stories. For Suspense. Reaction. Interaction, Action..
Julie added to it:
And of course, do not hesitate to pause either instead of Ah, Uhm, whenever you are stuck, no one will realise it is not a Power Pause! And I learned, in an Improvisation Class that those in “power” pause longer!