One of the most exciting moments for me as a presentation coach happened at last year’s Conscious Capitalism conference. One of the presenters stopped talking – and let us read a slide.
Each of his previous slides was very visual – bold image, few words – and he used them to punctuate, rather than script, what he was saying. An excellent approach.
But his summary slide had all five of his key concepts with thumbnail photos and a short description alongside each. It was filled with content.
“You can all read,” he said. “I’m just going to let you read this slide.”
And everyone was quiet while we all read for a moment. Then he continued.
I later asked him about his decision and this was his response. “I just thought it was a respectful thing to do.”
Imagine that – thinking about the audience more than yourself. It can free you.
We’re already self-conscious when standing in front of a room full of people. Silence can make us even more self-conscious.
But no one seemed uncomfortable in that room.
Silence often feels much longer than it is.
Lose your train of thought? Need a moment to think of an answer to a question? Take a moment to calmly take a drink of water and no one will be the wiser. The time that goes by in silence won’t even be noticed.
I once coached a client who talked about the demons trash-talking him during a presentation. They were particularly brutal about any pause, so he never took time to consider his next point, until I coached him. Later he watched himself on video and realized a pause is only a second of silence, one that no one had even noticed.
Don’t fear the silence. Welcome it. And even learn how to use it to your advantage.