Using Pauses to Improve Your English Speaking

Using Pauses to Improve Your English Speaking

As an online English speaking course in India we get a plethora of students who are familiar with the English language to a great extent, but struggle with spoken English fluency.

Effective communication skills are not only about English fluency and definitely involves lot more than simply talking. An indispensable part of communication are the pauses that we may use while talking with friends or giving formal presentations. Sometimes, speakers tend to talk quickly and as a consequence, the audience is not able to comprehend the speakers’ words.

Most online spoken English classes will concur that an effective speaker is the one who uses lots of pauses in their speeches. By pausing after major points in a speech, everyone can assemble their thoughts well. Moreover, the audience is able to absorb the contents of the speech in an effective manner.

Why are pauses in speech necessary?

Online English classes usually start with correct pronunciations, teaching vowel sounds, enunciations and the correct use of pauses. Using pauses efficiently in speech will make your points and ideas easier to understand. Over the years, here are a few techniques to make the best use of pauses that we advocate our students use:

  • 1. Put Right Emphasis - Add emphasis to the key points which you want to highlight to the audience. ‘Pause’ can be a powerful verbal tool in a presentation. Therefore, note the main phrases and plan pauses around them. Also, make sure to spread these pauses throughout the presentation to increase your listener’s understanding.
  • 2. Change in Tone - Pausing when moving to a new topic lets the audience mentally shift gears as the speaker begins to talk about a different concept. You can give pauses either after an introduction or before a conclusion to help the audience refocus and understand the progression through your speech.
  • 3. Make Sentences Crisp and Clear – As an online English tutor, I cannot emphasize enough! Using pauses when you need to talk about different things or giving a longer pause when there is a hard stop to a sentence will maintain a good rapport with the audience and allow them to hear what you are saying. It gives time to the listeners to process and grasp the information, especially when your speech is on a complex topic or a presentation.
  • 4. Replace Filler Words- Sometimes, filler words are important as it fills the gaps but try not using the similar filler words repeatedly. If you find yourself using a certain word (common words include ‘like’, ‘and’, ‘so’) again and again, try giving a pause. Recording your voice while practicing your speech will help you identify your common filler words. You can then choose a few words to be used in your speech that you don’t use often.
  • 5. Maintain Eye Contact - When you maintain eye contact with your listeners, you intend to get them engaged with your speech and in conversations. Additionally, if you combine this with pauses, you add extra emphasis and weight to the points you make. Pausing together with eye contact strengthens one to one relationship with the audience and keeps them engaged and feel involved in your presentation.
  • 6. Let the Conversation Go on - If you’re in a business venture, networking event, or a negotiation, make sure you pause continuously and give others a chance to ask questions about the topic that you have explained to them or to clarify their doubts. This method will help you figure out the interests of other people and lead to positive outcomes.
  • 7. Think, Pause and Respond – Not only your online English teacher but even your parents must have advised you to listen carefully. You should always listen, understand, give a pause and then answer. The pause lets you hear the complete question and gives you time to reflect and think of an appropriate answer.

Therefore, it becomes vital to use 'pauses' to let the message sink in and make the audience understand what you said. Studies reveal that pauses participate in rendering human communication more intelligible (Brigitte Zellner). Research by Grosjean and Deschamps (1975) shows complex communicative tasks require more pauses.

Tips to use pauses correctly for effective public speaking skills:

As an online English speaking course, here are few ways and ideas you can improve your pauses during conversations and Public Speaking:

  • a. Communicate with online English experts, friends and colleagues who are fluent in English. They will help you engage in conversations using definite pauses.
  • b. You can try watching videos of different TEDx speakers and focus on the pauses when they give during their presentations. There are several videos on YouTube which may help you with your speech and public speaking.
  • c. If you are carrying any speaking notes, mention ‘PAUSES’ in capital letters wherever you have to pause in sections.
  • d. Make a video when speaking and watch it before you go for your presentation. This will help you focus on the pauses that you made or anything that is missing.
  • e. Practice pausing when talking. Listen to what friends and colleagues are saying and wait and give a pause before speaking. This habit will enhance your speaking skills effectively. Pauses are healthy, allowing you to take deep breaths. Additionally, it aids your brain by providing more thoughts and enhancement of vocal quality by keeping your mouth and throat lubricated.
  • f. Always try to take feedback before your speech or presentation. This activity will help you ensure that you are using your pauses in a correct way and your speech is not too monotonous.
  • If you want to be more aware of pausing and giving gaps in your speech, read books with pauses. Whenever you encounter a comma, reach the end of a sentence or a paragraph, pause for a few seconds. This will make you more aware of pausing and help you perform well while giving speeches. James C. Humes in Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln, advocates to break speech text into a series of short clauses, one per line. He also recommends using short pauses whenever the line ends, at the end of each clause.

Pauses play a crucial role during speaking. Using pauses effectively in your presentations reflects your eloquence and speaking artistry. Use pauses cleanly and when required. It should not give your audience the impression that you’re searching for words or are unprepared. The stage actor Ralph Richardson stated that the most precious things in speech are pauses.

Consummate presenters, who have learned the power of perfect silence, know the value of pauses. It is during the pauses when we can reflect on the significance of what we have said and make it relevant for not only the audience but also for ourselves. That is how you make an impact on your listeners.

Related article: Impromptu & Persuasive Speech


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