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Pause! Are You Doing It Right?

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

A speech is not simply conveyed by words, but also by pauses. A pause isn’t a moment of “nothing”, used without a purpose. When you pause, you give your audience time to process in their mind what you have just said. A pause allows your listeners to stay engaged and enables them to follow what comes next. If you tend to speak rapidly, it is even more important to allow ample time for pauses. There are many benefits of using pauses effectively.

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1. Pauses help your audience understand you.

Pauses allow you to punctuate your spoken words, giving your listeners clues as to when one phrase, one sentence, or one paragraph ends, and the next begins. Your audience doesn’t have the benefit of punctuation, bolding, italics, bullets, and other formatting as in written material. You’ve got to provide that, and pauses are a central way to do it.

2. Pauses help convey emotion.

To capitalize on this, use pauses authentically to convey emotion, just as you would during a conversation with a friend or family member. When used strategically, the pause is a tool to help you build an intellectual and emotional connection with your audience.

3. Pauses control the overall pace of your delivery.

Your audience has cognitive limitations and cannot absorb information beyond a certain rate. Pauses allow you to slow your rate to match their listening capacity. So, if you must read a portion of your speech, be sure to deliberately extend your pauses to mimic a more natural spontaneous speech style. Otherwise, your audience will have difficulty keeping up.

When should we use pauses in our speech? There are three parts in a speech that we can implement pauses in:

  • The Beginning: Being presented onto the stage will allow the audience to give you a warm welcome, either through cheering or clapping. It’s appropriate to thank everyone for their response, but don’t thank them straight away before beginning with your speech. Instead, take a pause between the applause and the first line of your speech. Look at the audience for 3 seconds before speaking. This moment of silence will set the tone and allow the beginning of your speech to come out with a bang.

  • The Climax: Building tension in a presentation will make the biggest moment of revealing your main message unforgettable. Don’t ruin the moment by rushing into the climax of your speech. Take a deep breath. Allow all the information you just shared towards the audience to settle. Then, unveil the most important and exciting parts of your speech that you want the audience to remember.

  • The Conclusion: Make the most out of your speech by delivering your call to action with enough energy to excite the audience. This pause during a speech is most commonly found in political campaign speeches or motivational speeches. You can make this work for your presentation by crafting a compelling call to action for your audience. End your presentation with the benefits of your intended message and use them to create an exciting conclusion for the audience.


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