In the previous article in this series, I mentioned that a speaker’s natural tendency is to fear dead air and to avoid it at all costs. Preachers (especially those who are just starting out) tend to stay away from gaps of silence for a number of unfounded reasons. Here are some of those reasons why preachers avoid pausing on stage.
(1) It means I have nothing to say.
Preachers subconsciously believe that silence equates to having nothing to say. Whenever dead air occurs, they start to wonder if the audience suspects that they’ve become confused, or lost, or have forgotten what to say next. And so speakers tend to move from one idea to the next in a very abrupt fashion in order to convey to the audience that they know what they’re talking about.
Now it may be true. Silence may mean you’ve become confused, or lost, or have forgotten what to say next. It happens to the best of us. But a gap of silence does not automatically convey that blooper to your audience. In fact, audience members rarely notice dead air unless somebody points it out or if it’s been going on for an absurd period of time.
(2) It seems awkward.
Some preachers feel that a long pause generates an awkward atmosphere in the room. The longer the pause, the more awkward it gets. And so to avoid the awkwardness of the moment, they simply avoid pausing altogether. Now it may feel awkward. But the truth is, it’s usually awkward only to you. Once again, the audience rarely notices any gaps of silence. In fact, their natural assumption is that any pauses that happen in your sermon are natural and intended.
(3) It feels too long.
Even if a preacher does pause, it’s oftentimes not long enough. This is due to the warped understanding of time when you’re on stage. A 1-second pause can feel like 10 seconds at the pulpit. A 5-second pause can feel like an eternity for a speaker. And so even though a preacher decides to pause, it’s usually too short to be of any value. On the other hand, a 1-second pause feels like 1 second to the audience and a 5-second pause feels like 5 seconds. Keep in mind that what may feel long to you isn’t necessarily what may feel long to your listeners.
Again, the reasons to fear dead air and avoid pausing are simply unfounded. They’re mostly based on what we assume about the audience: that they sense we have nothing to say, or that the atmosphere has turned awkward, or that a five second pause is way too long. Those simply aren’t true. You need to understand that the audience isn’t out to get you. They’ve gathered together because they genuinely want to hear what you have to say that morning.
In the next article, we’ll look at the benefits of a well-placed pause during a sermon.
Join the discussion: Why else do we avoid pausing on stage?