Take a breath before you speak.

I’ve noticed a trend with public speaking, in my classroom, during conferences and in meetings…..it’s when people answer a question quickly, without pausing to reflect on their answers.

For some reason we seem to think that we have to answer everything, right NOW, because a pause or silence is so scary. But often what happens is that you start talking, then you start rambling, you’ve forgotten the point you were trying to make and then you just trail off without a conclusion.

So, the next time you’re asked a question, you can take a pause, and just breathe. There I said you can do it! Pause. Breathe in, breathe out. Reflect on what your answer should be. Have an overall point to your answer.

Pausing before you speak does a few things: (1) it showcases confidence –really it does! People think that pausing before you speak makes you look unprepared or incompetent, but it does the opposite; (2) it makes you look thoughtful, like you’re really taking the proper time to give the audience a well prepared and insightful answer; and (3) it makes people perk up and listen more. When there’s silence, people listen, because they think you’re about to say something really important. It builds anticipation to your speech. It gets people’s attention, and in public speaking, that’s what you want.

TIPS: Practice taking a full breath in and out through your nose, count to 3 on the inhalation and 3 during the exhalation. (Just like you would in yoga, take a deep breath), and then answer the question. I’m serious, counting to 3 works. Also, it helps calm the nerves.

I sometimes write the person’s question down on a piece of paper, read it over in my mind, pause and then answer the question.

Don’t rush when answering questions. No one is timing you to see how fast you can answer the question.

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