The Power of the Pause


“Go ahead … make my day.”  – Dirty Harry, Sudden Impact

“I am … the danger.”  – Walter White in Breaking Bad

“Louis … I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”  – Rick Blaine, Casablanca

“Bond … James Bond.”  – Need I say more?

Great lines, delivered by great actors, but made all the more powerful by the ever-so-slight … pause.

Learning how to deploy the powerful pause is one of the best things you can do to take your presentation skills from good to great.

I’ve coached numerous executives who are comfortable on stage, know their content and can speak extemporaneously on their area of expertise. They’re good. Not great – but they could be.

These speakers take their audience on a lovely boat ride, the waves of their voice a gently lapping ebb and flow with no pauses and no punctuation marks.

Every word they say sounds as though it has equal importance. Even a strong opening and organized content cannot wield its full power without giving the audience some cues as to what matters.

As a listener, I’m not engaged in anything in particular, or perhaps in anything at all.

Delivering lines like actors might feel ridiculously dramatic for a presentation at a conference or to a group of employees.

But this is one of the reasons storytelling is so effective. When we tell stories we naturally punctuate various parts of the narrative. We naturally pause for emphasis or linger over a key point.

Be intentional about adding pauses to your presentations. It only takes a second, but the positive impact lasts much longer.