“Mr. Gorbachev…[Pause for Dramatic Effect]…Tear Down This Wall”

Here are the three primary reasons to hone the power of the pause for more impactful speaking.


Say the above phrase aloud, making sure to stick that pause.

Now repeat the phrase without a pause. Do you hear the difference?

In our quest to get the show on the road, we speed through our words too often with little understanding of what the audience has absorbed. 

With my clients, I try not only to help them develop useful techniques but also to explain why they can be effective in practice. In terms of pause power, there are three primary reasons why strategically placed moments of silence are essential for all speakers to add to their repertoire.

Here are the three primary reasons:

1. Pauses allow the speaker to concentrate his or her energies on their call to action. 

Pauses provide listeners with the opportunity to reflect on what has come before and what they expect will follow. They are designed to call attention to themselves—to stand out and help listeners realize that something important is about to be said. 

2. They create suspense.

Great movies know how to keep an audience engaged and uncertain as to what will come next.

Think about a Hitchcock movie—any Hitchcock movie. In North by Northwest, Hitchcock shows you an airplane flying toward Cary Grant. There’s a pause. And then it keeps getting closer and closer.

Grant runs and finally ducks under the plane’s propeller. When tension is built into a scene, we’re anxious to see and hear what’s coming next.We stay on the edge of our seat waiting for (pause for dramatic effect) the outcome!

The unskilled speaker, by contrast, rushes through his words, communicating neither pauses nor suspense. As a result, their punch lines fall flat as a pancake. Just remember: No emphasis, no power!

As Alan Alda says about acting and the power of the pause, “It’s the stuff between the lines that makes it a great performance.” 

3. They control the overall pace of delivery.

The audience has cognitive limitations and can only absorb a certain amount of information at one time.

Pausing slows your rate of delivery down to match the listening capacity of your audience. It buys time to engage the audience and lets them absorb the words you have emphasized. “Luke, I am [pause] your father!” 

Take your time. You have more of it than you think. Audiences will be patient if you have something that’s thought provoking and memorable to say. They know that a good line or idea is worth the wait. 

Next page- The key Power Pause Techniques as you rehearse your speeches.