February 12, 2013

Enjoy the Silence

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director for Southern Writers Magazine

A public speaker whom I had the pleasure of seeing last weeka competent and well-spoken fellowbegan his presentation by declaring that he's probably going to talk too fast, and talk too much. He went on to explain that he cannot bear to hear any silence during his presentations.  The quiet when he's speaking makes him uneasy and he feels he must fill the gap with words.

We've talked before in Suite T about pacing as it relates to storytelling, and how important it is to provide readers with a roller coaster ride that takes them to great heights and then pauses momentarily, giving them a chance to catch their breath.  But it's easy to forget that the principle of ebb and flow is equally important when addressing an audience.

Standing at the podium, a roomful of silent people is indeed very unnatural, especially with all eyes on you.  Hoping as we are to regale the crowd, any silence feels like a vacuum. But if we flip that scenario and instead are seated in the audience, we can be quite appreciative of those pauses, which afford us the opportunity to absorb the information we're taking in.  (Especially if we're taking notes.) 

A good rule of thumb might be this: Any time you make a statement that you consider deep, important, or potentially confusing, make a point to take a long breath while it sinks in.  Join your audience in enjoying the silence.  As long as you don't look like you're fumbling for the next thing to say, the audience will comfortably follow along at your pace.

Authors who speak at conferences have expressed an appreciation for Dr George Lucas' column "Speak Easy", in each issue of Southern Writers Magazine.  In his current series, "What Makes a Good Presentation?", George reminds us that if we have a passion for what we're talking about and a genuine desire to share it with others, it will be hard to fail in front of an audience. 

I would add that a fervent urge to talk about your pet subject is an additional reason we may talk too fast, or too much.  Passion sometimes overthrows pacing.  (But that's a topic for you romance authors.)

Which reminds me, Happy Valentine's Week to one and all!  Even if you don't have a date for Thursday, remember that Southern Writers loves ya.


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