Pause… Silence is Golden

Power of the PauseLong line of paw prints

Performing or presenting pregnant pauses is a rare asset for those able to use them.  Who would have thought the humble pause so powerful?Pause Button

When you do it right people are amazed at your communication abilities, the effect you have on them how you capture them and how you move them.  You are able to be so much more persuasive, entertaining, informative and inspiring simply because you allow your audience time to come with you on your journey.

If you do it wrong then you lose credibility, your message is weakened, you haven’t allowed your audience the time to join you on your journey, they struggle to understand where you are going.

You know when you are reading you need to sometimes look away and digest what you’ve read or you need to go back and reread to grasp the context more fully?  Well it is the same when listening to a speaker you sometimes want time to digest what was just said.

As audience we want to understand and it is so difficult if the speaker races on and tramples all over the information you are trying to digest, hence the speaker loses you – if it becomes too hard for us to keep up – we don’t.

Benefits of Speaking Pauses

1. Pauses engage your audience.

My favourite pause is the very first pause.  I find it has many uses and is an old practice by seasoned speakers. This pause allows you time to settle yourself get your breathing right, be ready to open powerfully, look into the eyes of your audience to connect and allow them to be quiet and present so they too are ready for you to impress them. Proves you are confident and in charge by starting when you are ready to speak, this will impress your audience.

2. Punctuation Pauses

Treat your pauses as punctuation. this is a way of helping you and your audience to digest and think about what you are saying, It also helps to define your structure, it  helps you by allowing you time to think on your feet, it gives you time to breathe and it gives you opportunity to emphasise.

Some examples for you to practice with pauses using a count method are:

Punctuation      Time count

a comma the count is 1
a full stop the count is 1,2
a semi colon the count is 1
a colon the count is 1,2
a paragraph the count is 1,2,3
underline a phrase the count is 1,2

A brilliant speech to listen to and to also use to practice with is the famous speech by Martin Luther King Jnr. It can be viewed on youtube here

Note how often he pauses in his speech and how he always waits for the audience to stop clapping before he continues.  A very clever and passionate speaker.

3.  Pace Control with Pauses

If you are a bit of a galloper like me sometimes, you will appreciate this. When you speak without notes or reading then you tend to punctuate a little better with pauses however you need to be very conscious when reading to intentionally use slightly longer pauses at the relative points.  It seems we have the propensity to gallop when reading.

Pace is vital for your audience to absorb and understand your information so they don’t become confused. You’ll note how slowly and clearly Martin L King Jnr spoke in the youtube link above.  Having your emotions a little in check can help tremendously.  Keeping focus on your audience and your content can help here.

I tend to get a bit excited when speaking and then I  talk faster which is not good for the audience.  Lately I have been fine but know when the moment strikes I need to be very vigilant and present to redirect my emotions so I use appropriate pace and emphasis to make my point.

4.  Ah.. Uhm.. Pauses fix filler Noises

If you are like me and cringe while we have to listening to our sporting heroes, nation and industry leaders tripping over their own crutch noises while trying to answer a simple question in front of millions of people. Wow I understand the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know”.  Such a simple habit to fix so they can present themselves as the confident leaders they are cracked up to be.

If you are new to this, some common fillers or Speech Disfluencies to look out for are – Ums, Ahs, Er, So, And, You Know, Well, Like, Actually, Really, Quite, Basically, Literally, Yeh.  I do use the occasional filler and I think that is ok, it is when every sentence has them it becomes a strain on the listener.  Different languages use different filler sounds.

Record your conversations and speeches so you can then count your filler sounds to heighten your awareness, then you’ll know how often you use them and plan to eliminate the majority of them.

The favourite message I give to people wanting to lose their filler or crutch noises and words is to be aware that you do them, then focus on what you want to use to replace them. Presentation pauses are the ideal power we need to overcome these bad habits.

5.  Mind over Mouth

Line-up of pawsMastering your pauses requires practice and allowing your mind to be in control of your mouth.  Pauses help here with your internal preparation keeping up with the stream of words your mouth is demanding.  The mastering of the mind is paramount to your mastering of your pauses hence the difficulty.

Your mind is busy organising correct breathing so you can project and speak clearly, sorting out what you are to say next, deciding where your are going to walk to next, when to move all the muscles to have your body showing congruent actions, expressing your words with your voice and face, keeping your focus on your audience and giving sincere eye contact, and now you want to add pauses in all the right places. The benefit of using pauses means you are giving your mind time to perform all these tasks without being confused, rushed, using too much energy or stressing.

5.  Types of Pauses

Lets look at the types or techniques of speech pauses

  • The punctuation pauses – see the table above for the detail
  • The drink pause – Always have a drink handy. Lose your place? time for a drink pause.
  • The exclamation pause – use it before and after a key word/phrase or a contrast/transition phrase/word
  • The laughing pause – let them finish laughing before you continue
  • The notes pause – stop talking when you are not looking at your audience
  • The ‘I’m thinking’ pause – there are times the audience needs to see you think before moving on
  • The power point pause – a pause when a new slide appears for them to digest. Also see notes pause.
  • The question pause – when you ask a question, pause, don’t verbally trample all over their personal answers
  • The drama pause – used for effect for curiousity, suspense, theatrical, impact, sensitive or respectful comment.
To Cap it off

Pauses do have power, Pauses have purpose, Pauses are very handy, Pauses are helpful, Pauses are friendly, Pauses are stylish, Pauses are interesting, Pauses are challenging, Pauses are funny.  The masters are familiar with silence is golden.


For more information or Courses check out – Speech Master Academy

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Article by Terry

Over the years Terry has learned to be a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Keynote Speaker, Presenter, Teacher, Coach, Mentor, Business Owner/Manager, Trainer, Facilitator, Teacher, Sailor, Dancer, Worker, Gardener, Reader, Music Lover and someone who thoroughly enjoys helping people to become better. We are all evolving by learning all the time, how and what we choose to learn makes us who we become. The key to Terrys passionate and enthusiastic approach is savouring the experience of contributing to the growth, action and enjoyment of the individual with their career.


    1. Thank you Pavel,

      Yes I love to use silence as a tool to help. Giving people time to settle, giving people time to pay attention, giving people time to think, giving people time to laugh and for many more occasions.


    1. Thanks Pavel,

      It can also be a precise art form to pick just the right amount of time to use tour silence just right. Look at the eulogy by President Obama and how he used it in many different ways. Precise timing done well.

      Great comment on both levels.


  1. I loved reading this article. I have always struggled with speaches and when I converse with others or try to covey a thought or idea, I don’t think people listen to me very well.

    Perhaps I need to go through your article and take a few notes to see if the pauses in converstaion will make a difference for me,

    This really was a great article, many thanks

    1. Thank you Debra,
      I appreciate your feedback. I’m trying to make content king and your encouragement certainly will help me build on what is there already. If people aren’t listening to you very well then keep an eye out for more on how to hold peoples interest. Many more tips to come.

      Most of the material you will find very applicable in everyday conversations as well. Pauses are so much more powerful than you think. even test them in a conversation when someone appears elsewhere just stop and look at them they will come around and ask what is wrong. Tell them you were waiting for them to catch up and simply continue.


  2. Hello Terry, great article. I get to speak in front of small audiences occasionally and always find it a little nerve racking. I am always looking for ways to engage my listeners more and I think your suggestions will work beautifully! Look forward to reading more.

    1. Thanks Scott,
      Yes try out a few of the ideas and find ones that fit with you, use them and start to develop some of the others. You will be surprised on your effectiveness after a while.

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