What’s the drill – June 11: Silence is golden

Often, one of the most difficult presentation tools to master is one involving no words at all:


In a heightened situation – whether on an improv stage or in a job interview, silence can feel dangerous, vulnerable, uncomfortable and intimidating.

What if we could magically alter our view of silence into something that made us feel powerful, confident, relaxed and observant?

Learning how to become comfortable with silence can add a powerful tool to your communication toolbox.

The truth is, we don’t always need to fill in the space – but we often do so anyway with non-words (the um’s or ah’s, or ands) – what we can call verbal clutter. Throw away the clutter and embrace the silence instead.

Silence can be effective because:

  • Brief silence cues people pay attention.
  • It raises expectation of what’s about to come.
  • Silence slows down learning, creating opportunities for active listening.
  • It guides us as presenters, encouraging clarity and brevity.

Marked by silence – we often assume the audience notices it as much as we do… when in fact, they barely notice the lack of noise. While we often have an exaggerated, or negative view of silence, an audience is much more relaxed and unaware.

One of the most challenging Improv exercises for me is to start a scene with 30 seconds of silence. It can be incredibly vulnerable to stand on a stage with nothing, no words or noises.

The more you practice brief pauses of silence, the easier it will get. How can you practice using this tool in your everyday conversations?



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