One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received came during the early years of my broadcast career, from my co-anchor on a morning show. He was about 20 years my senior and was kind enough to share some pearls of wisdom with me, the neophyte beside him on the anchor desk.
He told me, “Don’t start talking unless you have something to say.”
The translation: Silence is far preferable to saying something dumb.
In general, we do not like silence. We don’t like that empty space and do our best to immediately fill it. Sometimes, we move too quickly and start speaking before a full thought has been formed, which can be a bit of a gamble. Maybe we get lucky and surprise ourselves with our verbal riffing. Maybe we end up babbling into incoherency.
Silence Can be Golden
Learn to get comfortable with the silence, and use it to gather your thoughts before leaping into the next sentence or concept.
My stint on the morning show required quite a bit of ad-libbing. The producer wanted friendly banter between his co-anchors, and I did my best to hold up my end of the conversation. Unfortunately, I think I fell short on some days, which likely led my colleague to offer that simple, yet profound, advice.
- Don’t start talking unless you have something to say.
- Pausing can protect you from sounding less intelligent that you are.
If you found this information valuable, check out my book, On-Camera Coach: Tools and Techniques for Business Professionals in a Video-Driven World, now available from Wiley Publishing. On-Camera Coach aims to take the mystery out of communicating through the camera and provides specific tips and techniques that can make your message sing—and you, the messenger, feel confident in a job well done.