“Music is the space between the notes.” ~Claude DeBussy
In many workshops, we see two parallel fears come up over and over.
People fear silence when they’re speaking. Silence makes them uncomfortable. Therefore, they often fill the silence with more sound — extra words and non-words (we call them “verbal pauses’).
And at the same time, people fear empty space on slides. White space makes them uncomfortable, and therefore they often fill the space with more words.
For some reason, we fear voids. And yet voids can be a powerful tool. Silence can be used to draw attention to our most important points. Silence can be used to capture attention. Silence also can create a sense of confidence and presence.
So too, with empty space. Empty space means the audience’s eye can only focus on what is there. So if you limit your slides to your most important points and facts, empty space will mean there is nothing extra to distract.
Is it possible to have TOO much silence and TOO much empty space? Of course. But in our experience, very few people are in danger of that.
For most of us, the risk is not enough silence and not enough empty space. When we fill the void, we distract our audience away from our most important points.
Don’t fill the silence and the void. Embrace them.