Are you afraid...of silence?

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Are you getting nervous before a big interview or presentation? Feeling butterflies in your tummy and that you have run out of time to practice?

You think that on the day you may freeze, or forget your lines, or embarrass yourself in front of people you are trying to impress?

You are scared. You are nervous. You are feeling a bit of imposter syndrome. What if your audience knows more than you do? Your belly hurts at the thought of the big day.

So, you procrastinate preparing. You hope to just wing it. You’d rather come across more natural than over prepared and stilted.

But then what happens is you end up rushing your answers or speaking too fast or babbling on for too long. Your answers or key points are not structured and the audience drifts off and stops listening. You aren’t memorable. And you lose your credibility, your gravitas, your audience. Oh no! That was your big chance!

So instead, let’s get you ready. Let’s be strategic. Let’s prepare. And when I mean prepare it is not only about structuring your key points and key words, but also, about holding the silence. Because our audience can’t keep up with us.

According to an article by Wyzowl, our human attention spans have decreased by 25% in the first 15 years of the millennium. In 2000, it was 12 seconds and within 15 years it had shrunk significantly to 8.25 seconds. In fact, scientists state that we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish, who are able to focus on a task or object for 9 seconds.

So, it is our job, as the candidate or the presenter, to keep things punchy. To structure our key points so that they are memorable. To hold the space with silence.

Four tips for keeping their interest and being more memorable

  1. Pause and count to 5 slowly before answering an interview question or starting to present on the big stage. Connect using eye contact with are your audience before diving in. This helps get them out of their own heads and into their listening mode by holding the silence. This makes you look like you have confidence and composure rather than nervously jumping in to the answer.
  2. Practice silence. You may need to start getting more comfortable with this in your own personal life first. For some reason silence makes us nervous as humans. We want to fill the space. We want to look like we know the answer. But when interviewing or speaking the audience needs the silence to process what you have said before being able to listen to your next point.
  3. Slow down. When we are nervous we speak much faster (and higher pitched) than when we are relaxed. So pace your answers. Don’t try to say too much too fast. Less is more. If you slow down the audience will be able to hear, and remember, more.
  4. Frame your answer. Be organized in how you present your points. Speaking in lists of 3s helps. Introduce what you are going to tell them, then tell it to them, then summarize your key point. That way the audience knows where you are going to take them and will be able to follow you better. After each of your 3 points, pause, give space of silence, then go on to the next point announcing where you are “so the 2nd of 3 points / themes, etc. is…”

Hopefully these tips will give you more confidence and clarity about nailing that interview or presentation!


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