The Power of the Pause

Answering a question too quickly can sometimes lead to the opposite impression you are trying to make. Learn how pausing before answering can be very powerful and help to create a good rapport with your audience.


The biggest mistake that people make when answering questions is not pausing before you answer the question. By just having a short pause before you answer a question, you’ll establish more credibility with your audience, they’ll consider you more thoughtful and more respectful, and it will also give you a second or two to think about what you want to say. Now the amount of pause is dependent on the question. You don’t have to have a long one. A short one will work. However, if you’re asked a very simple question like, “How long have you been in business,” … “Hm [pause] seven years.” That pause is obviously too long. So gauge the amount of that pause based on the complexity of the question. This pause is so powerful I want to give you a quick little demonstration of it right now.

Someone here ask me a question. Ask me a question now. Go ahead. 

(Off camera female voice) Question: What previous experience do you and your cofounder have in this industry?

In this industry, my cofounder and I have ten years blah, blah, blah. Go ahead and ask me that question again, please. 

(Off camera female voice) Question: What previous experience do you and your cofounder have in this industry?

My cofounder and I have ten years of experience in this industry and blah, blah, blah. So did you notice the difference there? Of course you did. I paused in the second example. If you see the difference right there, you’ll know that by adding that little bit of a pause you will see a difference in how people respond to you as a speaker, especially during that Q&A.

Suggested Readings

Founders School || Powerful Presentations: Mastering Q&A || The Power of the Pause || Impact Guide (PDF).

Phillips, Brad. “How to Be a Better Media Guest in Three Seconds.“; Mr. Media Training. Blog post. February 2, 2011.

Questions for You

Do I pause before answering questions?

Do I give myself time to think about the question before answering?

Are the pauses I’m taking creating a good or disruptive rapport with the audience?

Tools and exercises

Pausing is a skill that requires attention and practice at work and home! Here are some exercises to try in order to make you more aware of the need for a pause:

Pay close attention to the questions you get during your day and prepare yourself to pause before answering. When the question comes in, be sure and pause before answering, even if it seems uncomfortable to you and the other people.

To experiment with the pause, try doubling the amount of time you might pause before answering a question and take notice of the audience. Pausing for unusual amounts of time can often generate new insights or change the tone of a talk or meeting.

When texting, try to pause before you reply. The habit of always responding immediately to text messages can sometimes affect how we answer verbal questions.