Can silence be a trigger in a presentation?

Silence can often be uncomfortable. It can suggest that a conversation got to a difficult point or that there is not much left to be said. Adding these to the formalities of a training session, silent pauses might sometimes get in the way of a successful presentation. That, of course, if not used as an advantage, as a trigger.

Yes, there are ways in which a trainer can play with silence so that he can benefit from it and transform it into a catalyst for a great presentation.

Used as an opposition, as a reverse psychology technique, silence can be a great help in those moments when things tend to get out of control by making people pay attention. Let’s take for example the beginning of a class when the entire room is noisy and bustle rules over the entire class. In that moment, a trainer could, of course, ask for all those who are present in the room to stop and pay attention, but this might not be the best move. Instead, if he simply chooses to stand still and quietly watch those who keep talking, the uncomfortable silence, even if unilateral, will win the undeclared battle. Confronted with silence, an audience who gets a little too talkative will “surrender” and the trainer can start or restart his presentation.

Silence can also be a real help when there is new information the trainees must deal with. In school, classes are structured in such a way that the students get a few minutes break after each 40 or 50 minutes. This is because the human brain cannot absorb too much information without pauses. During a presentation is therefore recommended that the trainer uses pauses after the most important topics, but also when discussing it in order to differentiate the introduction from the content and the conclusion. These pauses will indicate what the main parts of the topic are, while also helping the trainees better absorb the information.

One of the most important part for establishing the right rhythm in a presentation is asking questions. This makes everybody pay more attention, make an effort to analyse the subject thoroughly and it can create the proper background for team work. But, in order to get there, trainers should forget about the rhetorical question and focus on determining the audience to participate. By using silence, the trainers help everybody understand the question and think about the best answers.  Not giving them enough time and answering the questions they themselves had asked would not motivate the trainees and it would not help them pave the way to their own contribution.

So, even though silence can sometimes seem uncomfortable, using it properly can represent a real skill when talking about a training or a presentation per se.