The Power of Silence… Welcome

I look in the classroom. The silence now lasts ten seconds already. The little noise that was still there when I closed the door has disappeared.  Fifteen seconds. I look at every student. My face has a serious look. Twenty seconds. Some students look at each other. The long silence causes discomfort for some. Twenty-five seconds. Some students can’t suppress an uncomfortable smile. They eagerly await what will happen next. I completely control them by saying nothing. If you can drop a silence and you are the only one who feels comfortable with it, then you are in control of the conversation. Thirty seconds of silence. My face changes from a surly serious look to a smile and I start. “Welcome…”

A movie in which you can see the power of silence quite well is Er Ist Wieder Da. This German movie, released in 2016, is about Adolf Hitler that ‘wakes up’ in 2016 at the same place where he died in 1945; the place where his bunker was. At a given moment in the movie he’s about to give a speech to an audience at a tv-show. Before he starts his speech he waits for minutes, causing the same effects I described above. Silence is a strength for those who feel comfortable with it.

I’ve been using this method for a few years now, every time I have to give an information session about my study. In reality it’s not always the same as described above, but let’s keep the ideal image alive please. After this remarkable opening follows an intense rollercoaster that takes between forty to ninety minutes; a performance, as I like to call it. A presentation is for someone who tells a story to an audience; a performance is for someone who tells that story as fun and attractive as possible.

To be honest, not every crowd is easy to get engaged. Sometimes part of the audience aren’t interested after a few minutes already, and listening to me for (at least) forty minutes can be quite long then. Then the trick is to bring the performance so much fun and interesting that even the uninterested crowd listen with full pleasure.

Let’s try that here as well. With a smile. “Welcome…”


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