The Power of Pace and Pause

The Power of a Slower Pace


Most people, who are not accustomed to public speaking, will be nervous when they get up on stage. And the one sure sign of nervousness, is speaking at a hundred miles per hour. It’s as if they want to get off that stage and out of there as fast as possible. And they probably do. However, this robs you and your audience. You’re just not going to make the difference you aimed for. You’ve spent all of that time preparing and carefully selecting your content. I believe, if you’re going to speak, commit, do it well and slow it up for your audience. As I mention in a number of posts, “Its not about you, it’s all about your audience”. New Zealand speaker and author, Kim Chamberlain, has an acronym called, STAY. It stands for, “Stop Thinking About Yourself.” That’s because it’s all about your audience. However, you do need to believe in yourself. Why? Because you are way more interesting than you give yourself credit for. Check out my post “Be You”. However, when you rush through your content, there will be very little time for gestures, eye contact or vocal variety, including pauses, and you just won’t connect. The audience can feel you don’t want be there. I believe that when you race through your material, the audience switches off.


Sometimes speakers race through their speech because they have too much content. Craig Valentine says, “If you squeeze your information in, you’ll squeeze your audience out”. And he’s right. However, how will you know, if you have too much
information? An easy way to do
this is to do a word count in
Word. I recommend 110-150
words per minute.


Another way to check if you have too much information is to rehearse your content and time yourself. However, the dynamics are different when you are in front of an audience, as compared to when you are just rehearsing. You may get more laughter than Cropped Stopwatchanticipated. You may interact with audience members. Interaction sucks up time like nothing else. You may add lib. And they’re all good speaking aspects. However you need to allow time for these time bandits. When it comes to Toastmasters’ contests, speeches are 5-7 minutes. Darren LaCroix recommends you give a 6 minute speech in 7 minutes. However, if you’re doing an one hour keynote or a two-day seminar, you’ll need to plan where you need to be at what time and time yourself. Alternatively, organise another person to be your timer.

Final Point on Pace

.                           When you speak to fast, you just won’t connect. The audience members won’t have time to reflect, absorb or Black Ring with Central Point
take in what you’ve said. And this is where the pause comes into its own.



Sometimes silence speaks louder than words. While pauses might add time to your speech, it’s worth every second.

Word Fillers

Most speakers are afraid of the pause. Next time when you’re listening to a politician, count the number of, “Ums”, “Ahs” and “Ands”. In fact, count all the filler words we all use, instead of pausing. We use those filler words, as we are uncomfortable with silence and pausing. Mind you, when you come from a large family where everybody is trying to have a go, you quickly learn the art of circular breathing. However, when speaking in front of an audience, be comfortable pausing. Pause where ever there would be a full stop, a comma or while you’re thinking of what to say next.

An Important Point

When you’re about to make an important point, telegraph this by pausing. This gets people to sit up, take notice and listen. When you have made your important or key point, shut up! Shut up is another word for pause. This allows your audience members time to reflect on what you have just said.

Rhetorical Question

When you’re having a conversation with a friend and you ask him or her a question, and then you just keep on talking, do you think your friend might think you’re a bit rude. I do. It’s the same when you ask an audience a rhetorical question and you continue to talk. Give them time to thing about the answer, even though they are not going to verbalise it. While rhetorical questions are a great way to connect with audience members, pausing to give them time to think about the answer will strengthen that connection.


Sometimes people laugh where we want them to laugh. Sometimes we don’t. The every now and then, you get unexpected laughter. When this happens, you need to pause. Often we don’t, as we are so focused on what we’re going to say. Basically we’re just going through the motions and forget to pause when people are laughing. This robs both you and the audience of the enjoyment of the humour. This is called stepping on laughter. I highly recommend that you get into the habit of pausing when there is laugher and continue just before the laughter completely fades out.

When you slow up to allow people to follow, and pause to leave time for people to reflect and laugh, you’ll connect.

Speak to Connect, to make that Difference.

Author: Henk van den Bergen

I have been speaking on Champagne for 20 years and decided to improve my speaking skills by joining Toastmasters International 13 year ago. I'm still a member today and I'm passionate about sharing what I’ve learned. I’m also proud to be the 1998 “Vin de Champagne Award” winner and being a three time Australian finalist in the International Speech contest.

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