What you say and how you come across in a media interview is, of course, critical. But what you don’t say can be almost as important.

You may never have heard of the power of a brief pause, but it has a range of benefits.

Yes, it can be a little awkward employing it at first. Most people being interviewed want to get their answers out as soon as humanly possible and not waste time with silence. Our expert media training courses, which can be delivered online or in person will develop this idea in more detail, but for a quick overview of the benefits of a pause keep reading.

What Are the Benefits of the Pause?

Before delivering your answer to a question, you can choose to pause for a few seconds. This creates anticipation of what you are going to say and grabs the attention of the audience. We are often surrounded by a lot of noise, and we can hear people speaking on the TV and radio without really listening to what they say.

What the pause does is make your audience suddenly conscious that something unusual is happening. A question is asked by the journalist and there’s no reply. This moment of delay, though short, causes the audience to lift their head and look at the TV screen or the radio.

The power of the pause is that it can also change the way people think about you as a spokesperson for your company or organisation. You will appear a little bit more thoughtful. You seem unhurried and calm, and you want to get the answer right rather than rushing into your carefully rehearsed taglines. If you want a good example of a public speaker who uses pauses to the best advantage, then download a speech by Barrack Obama on YouTube.

Rushing through what you need to say can have the opposite effect. It makes you look a little uncertain and even nervous. The pause also gives you a few seconds to simply get your thoughts together and make sure that your response is going to be appropriate and powerful.

Can You Get It Wrong?

Of course, there are a few perils in using this approach. If you let the pause, go on too long, the interviewer may think you have lost your train of thought or are unable to answer the question. You can also lose your drift when you put the pause in the middle of a reply. When you do have a brain fade, it can be catastrophic. That pause, however, when used often can become a lifeline for getting yourself back on track.

Where to Put the Pause

You can start with the pause to grab the attention of your audience, or you can use it within your reply, perhaps to punctuate an important part. It’s essentially allowing the information to sink into the mind of your audience before you continue.

Finally, pauses can often be used by journalists as well. Once you have finished your reply, they leave it hanging. Don’t be tempted into trying to fill that space as it can end up with you both talking over each other.