Inject suspense and drama into your presentation with the dramatic pause

Pauses in presentations and speeches


“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”  – Mark Twain

Many a speech has achieved glory thanks to the right use of a pause. Take John Kennedy’s epic address for example: “Ask not what your country can do for you [pause] ask what you can do for your country.” Or Franklin Roosevelt’s, “The only thing we have to fear is [pause] fear itself.”

However, one has to be careful not to use it too often. It becomes irritating when speaker takes long pauses frequently. Reserve it for the most important point of your story. Raise a question or make a dramatic statement and then take a pause slightly longer than you need to. Let curiosity build up in your audience and then hit the nail on the head!

“Friends, today I am going to share a secret that will change your life forever.” 
[Long pause] 
“It’s called…”

Not only does it make a strong impression on their minds, it also exudes confidence and shows that the speaker is in complete control.

Did you know that besides your speech, you could also use the dramatic pause in your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation? Yes, there are several ways to do that:

  • Delay showing your slide. “Gentleman, the next slide I am about to show will shock the hell out of you.” Take a slight pause and then reveal the slide.
  • Use the ‘Delay’ effect on slide animation or transition (Rather than using default timings on animation or slide transition) Build up even more curiosity as the visual or text slowly appears on the slide with effects. Keep the audience guessing what’s in the slide till the last second.
  • In stand-alone presentations, you can keep a few slides blank between the question and the solution to create suspense. It can work wonders. 

Here’s a presentation that uses the dramatic pause effectively to heighten suspense in viewers:

More PowerPoint presentations from Aki

Do you know of any other way to use the dramatic pause? Share with us in the comments below.

About Author
Anuj Malhotra

A potter maniac, I live in a world inhabited by wizards and Marvel’s superheroes. Writing is my defence mechanism (Mr. Freud, analyze this). Presentations are my new found love.

2 Comments

  1. Greeting sir., I read your post, It is awesome., you’ve told about gaining audience eagerness by using suspense and drama by a key called “pause”. Can you explain more about what sort of eagerness and help me to get some more tips.

    • Sorry Freeda for replying so late. I totally missed your wonderful comment. My bad. You asked what sort of eagerness- as they say “wetting the appetite.” By using dramatic pause, you create hunger to know in the audience. You make them active seekers of knowledge and not just passive recipients. Here are more tips for use of the creative pause:

      1. To pause before the punchline of a joke (to make the audience more attentive)
      2. To give the audience time to think (Think their own answer and then compare it with yours)
      3. To tease the audience (when they really want to know something badly like making million dollars)

      Creative pauses really work. Don’t just overdo it or make them long. 🙂

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