Pauses make you a better presenter – in any language

by Neil Everton

No matter what language you speak, three simple guidelines will enable you to connect more strongly and memorably with your audience:

  • slow down
  • pause
  • use conversational language

Last week we worked with a group of talented young people who all speak for a living. They are broadcast reporters and anchors.

Their native languages included Kyrgyz, Spanish, Croatian, Swahili, Russian, Polish, Cantonese, Romanian and Arabic.

This member of the Podium team is not fluent in any of those languages.

But when we asked each person to stand up and make a presentation, in their own language, a couple of things became clear:

  • they raced through their presentation much faster than they talked normally;
  • they barely paused at the end of thoughts and sentences;
  • they stumbled over certain words and phrases.
Podium's Neil Everton (centre, back row) with the young journalists
Would it be culturally acceptable to speak more slowly, we asked? Yes, they all replied. Would a pause here and there help their audience understand the content more clearly?  Well yes, they thought it would. And what were the words and phrases they stumbled over? Turns out they were the words and phrases the speakers would never use in a conversation with a friend.

Don’t scorch through a presentation like you’re trying to get out of a burning building. Slow down. Pause for breath after every big thought and every sentence. You build in a comprehension gap for the audience. And by filling your lungs regularly you have more control over your breathing. That means more control over pacing and emphasis – all the good things that help you connect with the audience.

And if you are struggling with a clunky sentence, stick Hi Mom in front of it. If you can’t hear yourself saying the words to your mom, you have to be more conversational.

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