The Power of Pause


Vin Scully, the legendary, and now retired, LA Dodger broadcaster, literally painted a picture of every game he called. While he is a master of words, he is also the master of knowing when to pause—when to let his listener simply enjoy the moment in silence. Susan Douglas in her book Listening In wrote, “There was a rhythm and cadence to the announcing, as a slow description, marked by pauses and the sounds of the crowd, instantly revved into high gear when there was a hit or an amazing catch.”[1]

Great speakers and presenters know and understand the art and power of the pause and the resulting silence.

Few moments in a presentation produce such an extraordinary effect as that of the sudden cessation of sound.

A pause can happen at any time—between words, between sentences, between paragraphs or at the end of a good punch line. What matters is not where it happens, but when.

The pause should come when you sense the audience and your talk are at a point that it needs to sink in a bit. The silence, more than volume or a Keynote slide, holds the audience in suspense for a few moments and you effectively drive a crucial point home by saying nothing.

Then, after that special moment, resume your presentation. There’s no need to mention or allude in some way to the silent moment that just passed. Learn to delight in it.

The amateur presenter runs through what they have to say. They miss the drama and suspense that silence brings. There’s no cadence in what they are saying. Speaking becomes words blurted instead of ebbs and flows in the presentation that excellently communicates ideas.

Great presenters know that suspense holds people into their seats. Cadence between words and the appropriate time of silence holds people’s attention. Just as a well-written last paragraph in a chapter spurns the reader to turn the page, so does the brilliance of well-placed silent suspense.

If you want to be a great speaker; learn the power of pause and silence.


[1] Susan J. Douglas, Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination, (Minneapolis, MN, First University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 212


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