February 5, 2012

Learn To Pause By Echoing

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

Applause starts with a pause. As we prepare a speech, we learn our content well. As we practice, we may speak faster and faster. That allows us to cram in more content. Perhaps we had too much at the outset and have to speak faster to squeeze it in.

Less is more.

Our audience is experiencing our speech for the first time. They need pauses to understand the ideas. They need pauses to feel the impact. Those who are unfamiliar with your topic need even longer.

Pause buttonObserve

Have you noticed how comedians pause after the punch line? Professional trainers pause too. The silence can last for seconds. The breaks show mastery. The willingness to stop shows control. We benefit as an audience.


How can you learn to pause? There's an easy way: listen to live recordings and pretend you're an echo. Repeat what the speaker says instantly and in the same way. You'll quickly match their pace, which may seem sooo slooooow.

Recordings of someone you already know work well. Bill Cosby is excellent. So is Jim Rohn.
Here's a short example from John F Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

Did you realize how much JFK paused? There are limits. Please don’t pause as much as Bob and Ray in “Slow Talkers”.

At First

Pausing may be uncomfortable at first. You might feel you're wasting the audience's time with planned silence. You're not. You're adding impact.

Rapid repetition has another advantage. You remember better too. When you are the echo, you needn't say anything out loud. Silent repetition works well too.

But Wait ...

Pausing reduces the time you have for your words. If you're trying to cram in as mug as you can, this is a problem ... for your audience. You're depriving them of pauses. That means you're overloading them. They'll still clap but you're reducing your impact.

As you edit, you distill and your content becomes more potent. The process takes you longer but the results are better. What you prune and shorten creates time for the pause, impact and applause.


Promod Sharma had problems pausing before joining Toastmasters. You’ll find more about him at promodsharma.com.


  1. I love the clip of the Slow Talkers!!! How refreshing to find such a humourous bit of information on our club's blog. Great job Promod.
    Very entertaining!!

  2. Levity makes learning more enjoyable. Thanks for your comment, Barbara.