Speakers Need to Master the Pause – Here’s Why

AlexiaCoaching, Happiness, Public Speaking

Your program sounds great, but I’m pausing until the fall so that I can…

My team and I received many emails with some version of this line last summer during one of our program launches.

Now, while it was crushing to read these words again and again given how much head, heart, soul and hustle we had poured into said launch, the truth is I’m all about pausing. On stage. And in life. (And now, before and after launches!)

Whenever people share their most common fear regarding public speaking, “What happens if I forget what I’m going to say next?” I always respond with, “And you will. So let’s talk about what to do then.” I say this not to be cheeky or dismissive, and rather to treat the source of the fear (the fear or forgetting) and illuminate the solution. Which is…

To pause. Or as I like to say, “Stop and smile.”

Whenever your brain and your mouth fall out of sync, forget about what you are forgetting. It doesn’t matter. Redirect your awareness to your audience, who you are on stage or in front of a room to serve. Smile at them, with your mouth and with your eyes, and hang out with them until you find a new thought and can continue on.

When you are connected to your audience, you can pause for a loooooooong time, and it’s fine. When people get this intellectually and then give themselves opportunities to practice pausing and connecting with an audience, they see that the method works. And usually they bust this fear for good.

Second, the best speakers I know DO NOT speak on stage too many days in a row. Unlike singers and actors who are often performing 8-10 shows per week, the finest speakers might have a 3-day event, or 2 gigs in a week, and then they pause for a week or so before doing it again. Unlike performers who are performing a role, speakers are tasked with performing the most present version of themselves.  When we allow ourselves to get too busy, we fall into repurposing bits that no longer land the way they use to for an audience. We compromise our ability to be spontaneous with an audience based on an adlib someone shares that we’ve never heard or responded to before. And we become divorced from our intuition and miss a ‘hit’ to interject a new anecdote or story into our material.

One of the ways I have expanded my capacity for pausing on stage (and in all areas of my life) is through meditation. It might sound trite, but it’s true, when I give myself 5-10 minutes of meditation at the start of the day, I am more present (and pleasant), more creative and more on message. For me, meditation or mindfulness is NOT about silencing the chatter, it’s about giving myself the time, showing up to my practice and being unattached to the outcome. (Incidentally, this is EXACTLY how I show up to rehearsing my speaking content. Rehearsal is to make permanent. It’s not for perfection.)

My friend (a Your Spotlight Talk and MasterTreat alum), Edita Atteck, has created a 4-part video series specifically for coaches, consultants, educators and service professionals who are ready to decrease their stress and anxiety, improve their mental clarity and deepen their relationships. I’ve had the privilege of participating in Edita’s My Wholeness Revolution Project, and she (and it) are the real deal!

Grab the FREE training here.

When you take time to pause, as I’ve realized after scheduling two spa days for myself within 30 days, you also give yourself time to assess what is and what isn’t working. For me, these most recent pauses have illuminated ways to enhance my productivity and time management. I riffed on Facebook Live about this last week. Click on the video below to watch.