Pause. Yes, a simple pause is what I consider as the Swiss army knife in public speaking. Think about it:
– Do you find yourself rambling sometimes and turning into a train that is about to go off track? Apply a pause and breathe.
– Are you transitioning from one key point to another? Combine a pause with a physical transition from one speaking area to another.
– How about building up audience’s anticipation before you announce your most ingenious … surprise!
– Too many of us have our filler words when speaking, using words such as “uhm” and “so” leading into an important sentence/message. Don’t they feel awkward for you and your audience? Replace them with a confident pause.
– When you forget what you are about to say. … Then you are back.
It is true that pauses often feel much longer when you are derivering them in front of an audience. The trick is to practice, practice and practice. After all, pause is extremely versatile and portable, like a Swiss army knife. I know I always find myself pleasant surprised at how good it feels to apply pauses, and pat myself on the back for remember using it – after all we all carry one already.
I would be very worried if my audience was silent. For an entire presentation. Worse if it continues after the presentation.
So how do I avoid it? I think the key lies in the desire of establishing and making a strong connection with the audience. By now, my curiosity in the audience has killed all the 9 cat lives I had and I am still alive, so I guess that means it is worth taking the risk and interest in your audience.
For me, the interest starts with the question of “WIIFM?” (What’s In It for Me?) from the audience’ perspectives. Once you get the answers, it should be fairly easy to list some open and closed questions that are easy for the audience to provide those answer. For example, this is what happened during my Tech-Talker training session on Monday. I know the participants would want to improve their public speaking skills and get more engaged audience, so I asked questions like, “Why is verbal communication important?”, “Have you experienced a similar situation in the past?” and “How is your typical audience like?” …By the way, the last question is how I got an overwhelming response of “silent audience”, and hence the idea for this blog posting.
Writing a blog is the closet I am to a silent audience, but by its nature, it is more one-directional. But even with that, I have a trick to deal with that – I have a lot of confidence in my messages! Confidence that the messages will connect with you and encourage some of you to discuss with me me about these topics, one day. And I am also hopeful that the day will be soon. Until then, I will keep on sharing on topics that I will keep thinking “WIIFM” for you, and write on topics that would be interesting to you.
I am not worried about “silent audience”. Are you?