It seems counter-intuitive to use pauses in your presentations and speeches.

By nature, presentations or speeches are oral. You’re selected/invited to share your thoughts with an audience, whether in person or virtually. So you’re required to speak.

Pausing also seems risky. After all the hard work preparing your presentation/speech and rehearsing, the one scenario you don’t want is to appear unprepared and unqualified to speak.

I get it.

But consider that the best connection you can have with your audience is by being believable. And there’re two angles to this:

  • Your presentation or speech resonates with audience members because they quickly see themselves in the scenario you explain. So, you become relatable.
  • Your presentation or speech resonates because of perceived intimacy. It moves them. You appear to be a member of their ‘tribe’, almost like a family member. And they become inspired to act based on your wishes.

Now think of moments when you had meaningful conversations with those in your inner circle — from friends and family members to your romantic partner. You wouldn’t have talked nonstop until you finished your piece.  Instead, you had conversations; You noticed the other party’s nonverbal cues and tweaked your style and messages accordingly. You also paused at critical moments to allow time for the other person to process your message and formulate thoughts. As a result of pausing at the right moments, you were able to drive the conversations further to satisfying conclusions.

You might argue that the two scenarios mentioned above are different. For example, business presentations and speeches differ from informal conversations with members of your inner circle.

But here’s the thing: Your audience is still human, and humans crave emotional connections. 

Audience members also want a reason to pitch their camp to yours. Furthermore, you also cannot influence them if you fail to persuade them, which is the goal of your presentation/speech.

So, to persuade your audience, you’d need to consider the three elements of persuasion Aristotle championed over 2,000 years ago — ethos (your credibility), logos (reasoning, facts, logic) and pathos (the emotional pull of your argument). While all three are helpful in persuasion, pathos is potent because human emotion drives action.

And here’s where it gets interesting:

The pause heightens the emotional pull of your speech or presentation and helps you to drive your argument home.

Below are three other reasons to incorporate silence in your speeches and presentations:

1) Pauses increase your influence

By now, you’d know that I’m all about you influencing people with your communication skills to get results. After all, I wrote this bestselling book on the topic!

But I’ve found ‘influence’ to be tricky. There’s a delicate line between being influential and being manipulative. One way to ensure you don’t veer into the second camp is to ensure your communication benefits the audience or helps them in their life’s journey.

Another way to boost influence is to plant an idea in the audience’s minds, so they make it theirs and consider it their position. Storytelling is an excellent example of this technique. Neuroscience has revealed via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans that the storyteller and the listener experience the same emotion when a story is told. Called neural coupling, this explanation may account for why some stories cause visceral reactions and others spur movements. When people feel the same emotions as you, they can be convinced to act in your favour.

Now to the impact of pauses in your speaking:

With pauses, you could coax the audience to engage with your content, thereby increasing your influence.

In the video below, Brian Tracy, renowned serial bestselling author, speaker, and trainer, introduces two types of pauses you should incorporate in your public speaking: the dramatic pause and the sentence-completion pause.

Both pauses compel your audience to take notice and transform them into active participants in your presentation/speech. People will likely accept an argument or support an outcome they had an input in.

2) Pauses urge your audience to consider your ideas

I recently delivered two communication sessions for an audience of Gen Z professionals for the 2022 Venture in Management Programme at a globally ranked business school in Africa.

In one session on presentation skills, I dared them to be different. Instead of using the predictable dry format at the beginning of their presentations, I recommended they begin with a bang.

I demonstrated two scenarios: one where I began with a dull opening and another where I started strong and incorporated a pause.

Scenario I

(I walked to the middle of the room, stopped at a spot, and began in a loud voice).

Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Lucille Ossai, and today, I’m going to talk about the need to…”

Scenario II

(I moved to the middle of the room, stopped at a spot, and with hands opened out, began in a loud voice. The opening was similar to the speech below).

Good afternoon, everyone. Imagine having the power to change the course of our company.” (Dramatic pause as I looked around). “What will?

I then asked the participants which of the two scenarios was more powerful. They quickly chose the second option — which I knew they would.

The pause made the difference. It got them to consider and accept my argument.

3) Pauses make you more confident

Moments of silence, sprinkled strategically in your presentations and speeches, communicate confidence.

Pauses, when coupled with the appropriate ‘warm’ body language (e.g., open arms and other illustrative gestures), heighten the perception of your authority.

For female professionals, C-suite executives, and leaders, pauses are a clever way to become assertive without being labelled ‘aggressive’.

Politicians who are known for their excellent speaking abilities, such as former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and current vice-president of the United States, Kamala Harris, pace themselves when speaking. They include pauses at key moments to accentuate their words. Watch their videos online and note how their use of breaks amplifies their persuasive abilities.

Two additional, albeit hidden benefits of the pause on your confidence, are:

  • It buys you time as the speaker/presenter to gather your thoughts if your mind suddenly goes blank.
  • It helps reduce your tendency to use ‘filler’ words (e.g., “er”, “so”, and “basically”).

Use pauses when you want your audience to be confident about you and what you have to offer.


You’re probably using different techniques to improve your presentation and speeches. Numerous tips and ‘hacks’ abound online for the uninitiated.

You may also have had some public speaking training or accessed free resources.

However, deliberately including pauses in your speeches and presentations is not standard advice you’ll get. And it’s a pity.

Still, know that this simple tactic is a game changer in your oral delivery. Even though the pause would not replace other valuable techniques, it mustn’t be ignored.

Sometimes, you can have the most dramatic impact on your audience when you say nothing in a pregnant moment of expectation.

Therefore, your call-to-action for your next presentation, speech, talk or address is simple:

Use pauses at strategic moments in your delivery.

Then enjoy the impact that will follow.

Do you need help with your presentation and public speaking skills?

I love working with ambitious professionals, executives, entrepreneurs, and business leaders.

You already know my approach, my credibility, and my experience. So kindly get in touch, and let’s explore how my transformational communication coaching and training services will catapult you to success in your career or business.

If you enjoyed this post, don’t rush off just yet. Please remember to:

  • Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons below.
  • Sign up for blog email updates so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles!
  • Fill the ‘Contact/Book Lucille Ossai’ form in the menu above to let us know how we can help you solve your communication problems.


N.B: First  image  is  courtesy  of 990609 via Pixabay. Second image is courtesy of Gerd Altmann via Pixabay. Last image is courtesy of Raphaël Jeanneret via Pixabay.

Got an opinion? Please share it below.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.