While it may sound like an oxymoron, silence is a speaker’s best friend. The well-placed pause, the active listening to a question from the audience, the five-second wait after you’ve posed a question – all gifts that a talented speaker takes full advantage of.

Today I want to talk about the importance of silence right before you begin your presentation or speech. And again, I speak from experience. Last Sunday, I was the emcee of a local fundraiser that attracted several “centers of influence” in my world. We were running late and a handful of final tasks needed to be completed before I could welcome the group and kick off the event. My notes were in my bag which was two rooms away. First mistake. Suddenly, my colleagues were giving me the nod to get going, so I jumped up and launched into my opening remarks. It went well. Everyone could hear me; I had the right amount of energy in my voice without sounding cheerleader-ish; and I put people at ease with my humor. All systems go, right?

Not so much. In my haste, I overlooked an important element. I forgot to thank the event host. If only I had stepped away for a moment to gather my thoughts and to breathe. I know I would have gone through my mental checklist even if I had no time to grab my note card from the other room. Some things you only have to learn once and you never forget. Others rear their ugly head again and again. This is my blind spot as a speaker. I’m one part over-confident and one part distracted right before I speak. I count on my impromptu speaking skills to carry me to the finish line. But it’s not enough.

The next time you are to play a critical role like emcee, or you are speaking to your own centers of influence, take a moment to settle down, to breathe, and to conduct a mental tech rehearsal.

To your evolution as a powerful presenter,

– Barbara