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Use the Power of the Pause

By July 9, 2022January 9th, 2023No Comments

Use the Power of the Pause

This chapter is about the second most popular takeaway from Elevator Speech Training.

Like the previous chapter on Hearing Analysis, it is not about speaking. It is about the opposite. It is about not speaking. It is about “the power of the pause.”

Pausing at the right points makes you to come across as competent, in command, and prepared. It also indicates that what you have to say is important.

It is one of my favorite tools because it is so easy. After all, pausing means doing nothing.

Now, this is not about pausing anywhere while you speak. Or pausing for very long. It is about a one-second pause after so-called signpost phrases.

A “signpost phrase” is a phrase that gives your listeners a hint about the nature of what you are about to say next. Here are some examples:

  • “Here is why it matters.”
  • “Let me say what we should do.”
  • “Here’s the bottom line.”
  • “Here’s the good news.”

At you can see a larger list of signpost phrases.

Please listen once more to the recording from the previous chapter and note the pause after the signposting phrase “here is why it matters”:

The difference between the two versions will be self-evident.

Multiple things happen in version number two:

  • There is a cliffhanger effect, causing your audience to crave the next piece of information. In other words, you increase their attention.
  • You indicate the importance of what you say because we slow down and pause when we say something important.
  • You come across as confident because you seem comfortable with taking up your listeners’ time.
  • The pause gives you breathing room to think ahead when you are not so prepared.
  • It is a cognitive assist for listeners that makes it easier to understand what comes next.
  • It helps prevent filler words like “um” and “you know” that make you seem less confident.

There are many linguistic studies that have examined the impact of pausing in speech. For example, a study by the University of Columbia showed that listeners associate pausing more with truthful speaking than with deceptive speaking.

Google “power of pausing” and you will find many sources recommending the use of pausing. You might find them to be a valuable add-on reading. Most of them, however, are not specific on when to pause.

Here is a mini framework for using the “Power of the Pause.”

Framework for Using the Power of the Pause

  1. Say a signpost phrase, like “Let me say why it matters.”
  2. Pause for approximately one second.
  3. Continue speaking.

Key takeaways

  • Pausing after signposting increases clarity, charisma, perceived importance, and attention.
  • Pause for approx. one second.
  • Pausing reduces your use of filler words like “ums” and “you know”.

Next steps

  • Start using signpost phrases and pausing.
  • When you must read from a script in front an audience, put markers in your script to indicate where you will pause.
  • Prime your brain by looking forward to using the power of the pause.