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Presentation Skills: The Pause – The Silent Moment that Packs a Punch

Presentation Skills: The Pause – The Silent Moment that Packs a Punch


“Pauses can achieve an effect that no combination of words could ever accomplish!”  -paraphrased from Mark Twain

You’ve seen master comedians break up a crowd with a well-timed pause.  Today’s young comedians study the great– the late Jack Benny, Johnny Carson.  The well-timed pause is the tool of smart speakers.

So, where can you pause?

  • After introductory phrases or clauses

“Even though the city council meetings went well,  (pause) the  city administrators and supervisors still feel uneasy.”

  • Before conjunctions (but, or, and, because, et cetera)

We strongly urged them to revise the two-year plan  (pause), but they didn’t take our advice.”

  • When citing a list of items

“We’ll need to call the vendors (pause), review our orders  (pause), double-check the fine print of our contracts(pause), refine the timetable (pause), and allow time to make changes.

  • When you want to inspire audience attention

Perhaps you wonder if this will affect you. (pause)  It will. (pause) Hard. (pause) Right in your bank account.

  • When emotions overcome you and you want to regain composure

Senator Edward Kennedy gave a memorial speech at American University in Washington, D.C. three decades after his brother, President John F. Kennedy. He delivered smoothly until he began recalling stories about his late brother.  He became emotional, and then stopped talking– a long pause before he could continue.

  • When an interruption catches the audience’s attention – or distracts your focus

When surprised by an unexpected interruption,  resist looking flustered. Simply pause to give yourself time to harness your thoughts.

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Be sure to watch our English Speech Tips videos and Accent Reduction Tip videos  for more English pronunciation and accent reduction exercise.



Rerun from March 19, 2014

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