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When you’re developing a presentation, there is no doubt that you give thought to the words you will use to convey your message. But how often do you consider when you will pause during your talks? My guess is seldom, if ever. Hopefully, that will change after learning how the often-ignored pause can transform what would otherwise be a rambling monologue into an engaging and interactive presentation.

Let’s look at seven examples of pauses and how they help you deliver more compelling presentations.


Pause at the beginning of your talk.

Taking three to four seconds before speaking allows you to initiate eye contact, establish confidence, and develop engagement with your audience. Do this for your next few presentations. You will see how effective this technique is.


Pause after you share a point.

Give your audience time to internalize and digest salient information. You know what you will say and how it relates to your message; your audience does not. If you do not pause, your listeners will be confused and either disregard what you said or try to figure it out and miss what you say next. Either way, you will either confuse them or lose them altogether.


Pause instead of using fillers. 

Inserting fillers is prevalent because many presenters are uncomfortable with the silence and fill it with unnecessary sounds and words, including umm, ah, you know, and right. But it is not the fillers that audiences find so irritating; it is the lack of silence. 


As you learned above, pausing allows your listeners to internalize and digest what you said. However, when you use fillers, you interrupt their thought process. Doing this once or twice will not necessarily reduce your presentation’s effectiveness, but when it becomes noticeable, it can be as unnerving as fingernails scraping a chalkboard. Remember, people regularly complain about how often a presenter used fillers, but seldom complain about how often a presenter paused.


Pause for emphasis. 

Pause before sharing a word, thought, or idea that you want to emphasize. This lets your audience lean in and listen, knowing they are about to hear something noteworthy, exciting, or even shocking. To add even more significance, pause directly after saying it.


Pause after asking questions. 

Asking questions – actual or rhetorical – is a powerful yet subtle tool for influencing your audience. But for this to be most productive, you must provide a sufficient amount of time for your listeners to answer the questions in their minds. If you do not allow this time, your questions serve little purpose. If you repeatedly skip this time, you risk annoying your listeners and consequently losing them.


Pause when advancing to another slide. 

It is natural to start referencing a slide immediately. However, this is ineffective. Pause for two or three seconds, so your audience has sufficient time to see and understand the slide. Then, when you begin speaking, the slide supports your words instead of asking the audience members to listen to you and decipher the slide simultaneously.


Pause to invite interaction. 

Do you want to involve your listeners in your presentations? Then pause to invite them to insert a word or finish a sentence. You can make this invitation even more apparent by accompanying your pause with a gesture or other body language.


Include pauses in your upcoming presentations. You will gain more confidence, and your listeners will experience higher levels of comprehension and retention. Because, as Mark Twain said, “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly-timed pause.”

Peter George Speaker and Public Speaking CoachPeter George


With a wealth of experience as a veteran speaker, public speaking coach, and acclaimed author, Peter has assisted over 300,000 executives, consultants, and professionals across 50 countries in harnessing the power of public speaking to increase their impact, influence, and income.


Peter’s notable achievements include authoring the six-time award-winning book, “The Captivating Public Speaker,” and pioneering the AMP’D Framework™, a methodology designed to empower speakers in crafting compelling messages tailored to their audiences.


Drawing from personal triumph over speech impediments like a lisp and stutter, Peter believes everyone should be able to effectively communicate their advice, expertise, and experiences.

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