Powerful Presentation Skills from the Slinky Dog

The head of the Slinky Dog represents you, the presenter. The tail represents your audience, who's trying to catch up
The head of the Slinky Dog represents you, the presenter. The tail represents your audience, who’s trying to catch up

One of the most powerful visual tools we have to teach powerful presentation skills is the Slinky Dog.

I know what you’re thinking, “What on Earth can this toy dog teach me about being a better communicator??!” Plain and simple, the Slinky Dog represents The Pause.

Think of the Slinky Dog when you speak

The head of the dog represents you, the presenter. You know what you are going to say, you say it, then you move on.

We, as the audience, or listener, are the tail of the dog. We have to listen to what you say and then comprehend it. We are always catching up to you.

If you get on the data train and just keep piling information onto us, we are going to fall further and further behind you. Eventually we will disengage.

If you give us a couple of points, you need to pause and let us catch up to you so you don’t lose us.

Power of the pause

Pausing not only helps your audience stay with you, but it also does many different things. It can help you lose your non-­words (uh, um, and so, for example). As presenters, we feel we can’t have any “dead air” in our talk, so we put in an “um” or “ah” when a pause would get rid of those non-­words.

Pausing will also make you seem more in control and commanding.

Pausing helps the presenter, too

Throwing in a pause helps the presenter as well as the listener. When we pause we can get our thoughts together and think about where we are going next. You may think a pause will feel like it  lasts forever, when in fact, it might only be a second or two. The audience will love it.

The next time you present, speak to your team, or even talk to your friends and family, try using the pause when speaking. Let everyone stay with you, get rid of your non-words, sound more sure of yourself, and keep your thoughts in order.

Case study of an executive learning to pause

We were working with an executive on a business talk. At one point, he listed three things. As he introduced each one, he kept saying “um” and “ah” (those non-­words we all have) as he was gathering his thoughts.

When he finished, we asked him to list off those three things again, only this time, to try pausing in between each one instead of using the non-­words.

He agreed, and this time when he listed the three things, he sounded much more in control, commanding, and listen-able. He started laughing when he finished and said, “I know how much more powerful I sounded, and all I did was shut ­up!”

Pausing was his epiphany.

You will be amazed by the power of The Pause.

Whenever you present, in fact, whenever you speak, I want you to think of the Slinky Dog.

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Avatar for Patrick Sheehan

Patrick Sheehan

Patrick Sheehan is Production Director for Interact and a facilitator assistant for its training sessions. He offers insights from his years shooting business executives at work. His other video and broadcast clients include Bank of America Learning Channel, ESPN, the Carolina Panthers and other high profile corporate accounts.