“The most precious things in speech are the pauses.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you ever paid attention to popular and powerful speakers?

They use words, body language and voice as weapons to blow away their audience. Listen closely and you’ll notice they’ve also mastered the art of effective pausing while speaking.

Speech pauses help transfer your vision and ideas to your listeners.

But how do you use this delivery technique to improve communication and impress your audience?



These pauses are similar to comma or sentence pauses in written text. Eminent speakers use this technique to articulate their points. It allows listeners to reflect on the spoken words and draw a connection with real life or personal experiences.



Longer pauses are essential when you move from one idea to another in your presentation. You can use this to separate two related points, for example, two different benefits from an activity or two different approaches to a situation.



According to this research study, silence before a particular word or phrase helps your audience remember it better. If you want to convey the importance of a particular phrase, pause immediately after uttering it. You can use silence to contrast two equally meaningful phrases or highlight a key word.

Example: Fear of skin cancer has forced many to douse themselves in sunscreen, (pause) but (pause) this may be harming you by over-applying, depriving your body of Vitamin D.



Rhetorical questions are more than mere ice breakers or striking opening statements. When long pauses accompany such questions, they stimulate your audiences’ thought process.

They seek answers on their own and actively participate in the discussions.



Dramatic pauses are an essential part of storytelling. If your speech involves any of these story techniques, use silence to create suspense or drama effect. Theatrical pauses add an element of surprise before you reveal a key finding, display a particular slide or use a prop.



Have you ever watched comedians or character actors? They always pause before delivering a punchline or an important part of the dialogue.

Why? To build anticipation.

They follow this up with another immediate pause. This helps their audience react with laughter or other emotions.

If you’re looking for similar effect in your speech or presentation, try punchline or climax pauses.



Silence is a powerful tool to open your speech and hook your audience. The technique is simple but speaks volumes.

Gaze steadily at different audience members, even as you mentally repeat your opening line. These few seconds of silence pique audience interest in your speech. It also allows you precious moments to gather your thoughts, calm your nerves and launch your presentation.


Have you used pauses as presentation and speech tools? Which silence technique do you often use?

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