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How to Use the Pause In Public Speaking

A black woman stands behind a podium holding a microphone. Her hand is raised palm out.

Which is better: to use filler words like um or to have a brief moment of silence in your speech? If you listen to some of the greatest orators of the last century, you won’t hear any filler words, but you may notice occasional pauses.

Many people believe that their job as a speaker is to fill the silence. But, using strategic moments of silence will actually elevate your speech. 

Why Pause in Public Speaking?

A pause in public speaking can help you avoid filler words and the tendency to speak too quickly. It gives you a chance to to gather your thoughts, show emotion, and allow the audience to digest what you just said. 

Gather Your Thoughts

Pausing between each section of your speech allows you to mentally prepare for what’s coming next. During the pause, you can take a quick sip of water and a deep breath before moving on. If you have slides or notecards, it also gives you a moment to smoothly change the slide or flip to the next notecard. Pausing while you do this prevents you from moving too fast and fumbling the transition. Taking the time to breathe and transition smoothly can have a big impact on the quality of your speech. 

Show Emotion

Have you ever started yawning after seeing someone else yawn? Similarly, pausing to show emotion can evoke emotion in your audience. Wedding toasts are a great example of this– you’re most likely to see the audience wiping their eyes when the speaker pauses to wipe their own. 

The best speeches tug at the audience’s heartstrings. Use strategic pauses to show how powerful your emotions are. Make eye contact with the audience and laugh, grin, or even frown. Are you speaking on a topic close to your heart? Let the audience see why this topic is important to you. 

Process Information

Have you ever had a teacher speak so quickly that you can’t really understand what they’re saying? With speakers like that, you don’t have time to process the information, let alone remember it. Use the pause to allow your audience to think about what you just said. This is particularly useful after you’ve just made a very powerful point that your audience may need a moment to process. By leaving a moment of silence, you’re allowing your audience to digest information.

This isn’t useful just for the audience– it’s also a useful tactic for you, too! While your audience is processing the point you just made, you can look ahead to the point you’re about to make and take a moment to prepare yourself before moving on. 

Check In With Your Audience

Use the pause to see how your audience is feeling. Are they still staring at you, rapt with attention? Or are they drifting off, using their phone, or talking among themselves? If you notice your audience isn’t paying attention, it’s time to change up your strategy and get them engaged again. 

Become a Great Public Speaker

We believe that every person has the potential to be a great speaker. If you’re dreaming big dreams of winning debates with confidence and ease, improve your public speaking skills with LeadYouth. Learn more.


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