The Proven Power of the Dramatic Pause: Two Ways Saying Nothing is Better Than Saying Something

In the microwave society that we live in, most of us are not accustomed to slowing down. As a podcaster, we may associate silence as “Dead Air” which is a phrase from radio. However, today I'm going to show you that the best answers come after the awkward pause.

On September 11, 1987, Dan Rather walked off the set of the CBS Evening News when a late-running U.S. Open tennis match threatened to delay the start of his news broadcast. The match then ended sooner than expected but Rather was gone. The network broadcast six minutes of dead air before Rather was found and returned to the studio.[11] CBS affiliates criticized Rather for the incident

The Dramatic Pause

The dramatic pause (sometimes called the pregnant pause) adds importance to what precedes it and to what follows it.

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How Pauses Enhance Our Content

More Please…

When you pause before you say something, the rhythm of your speaking is interrupted, the processing of what you are saying is completed leaving your brain looking for something else to process. Thnk of words coming down a conveyor belt and as they come by the brain the brain consumes it. When the words stop coming down the belt, it's as if the brain is waiting for the next word to come down the belt. As the belt shows more and more silence, the brain may go from consuming the words directly in front of us and looking down the belt for another word – hence grabbing our attention.

Let Me Process That…

While pauses can be used to set up the main point, they can also be used to allow words to “Sink In” as you pause before starting your next point. Paul Harvey was the KING of pauses. In listening to this clip of Paul, I noticed he seemed to have the pause AFTER a point to accent what he just said.

The Three Different Lengths of Dramatic Pauses

In my travels in content, I've noticed what I am calling the three lengths of Dramatic Pauses.

  1. A normal pause that you would use in normal conversation
  2. The Dramatic (or pregnant) Pause is usually a second or two to draw attention to our points.
  3. The “Did they go to get a cup of coffee?” length of a pause. This is where the brain stopped and focused, and had to wait so long it removed the focus from what you were saying and has moved on to the topic of “Where did they go? Is something wrong?”

Multiple Choice Interviews Are Boring

I came across two great examples of interviewers who asked a question and shut up. This lead to some awkward silence, but instead of giving the guest a list of potential answers, they let their guest sit and ponder. The result was a much better answer than any of the options you provided.

Howard Stern Ben Affleck

Howard Stern is an amazing radio personality on Sirius XM. In his early years, he was known as a “Shock Jock” but there is so much more to Howard (see the movie Private Parts). He is proof you can change your format, and while you will lose some of your audience, other people will love the new format. In interviewing Ben Affleck (about his movie Tender Bar), first Howard reminds home of how horrible it must feel to have a father who is alive but chooses not to be in their child's life. Then Howard (who has done his homework) draws the parallel to Ben's character in his new movie The Tender Bar is similar to the boy in the movie (who has a father who is not involved in his life).

Howard asks did you ever want to go to him and go, “I'm this cute little boy, what am I not in your life?” Then there is 18 seconds of silence. Ben says a few words as he is pondering the question, the feelings, and how much to share (Well, pause, um,,, pause). Howard just lets him think. When Ben answers you can hear the emotions in his voice. He explains how his Grandmother (his father's mom) committed suicide, his brother committed suicide, and his father beat Ben's father his whole life.

David Letterman Ellen Degeneres

What do you get when you allow David Letterman to select the guest he interviews, and allow him more than seven minutes to get them to talk about their movie? You get really good interviews. David Letterman gives everything he has as he provides 100% of his attention when listening to an answer.

In this show, My Next Guest is (on Netflix) he knows that Ellen's stepfather sexually abused her. He leads her to the time in her life when this happened and brings up that her Mom remarried a bad man. He asks, is that it? He then gives her the ability to skip this subject by saying, “I'm fine if that's it.” Then he didn't say another word for over two minutes. You hear Ellen somewhat struggle with herself as to IF she would share the story, and WHAT to share. There were NUMEROUS times when he could've jumped in and said, “HOLY COW” but that would've cut the story short. His silence not only leads to a great answer but also an answer Ellen may have needed to say.

Neither Howard nor David bowed to the pressure of the awkward pause, and instead let their guests think about their answer and deliver it.

You Can Always Edit Later

If you find yourself in this situation and you decide to embrace the awkward pause and on the other side of it, you didn't get the insightful answer you had hoped for you can always edit the pause (and maybe the whole question and answer) out of your episode.

Because of My Podcast

Andy Driscoll of inebri-art.com shares how his show The Old Colony Cast-enabled him to get involved in a large fair (where he set in the King's box), partner with another podcast, and got a private tour of an attraction, and even got a tour and recorded in the Lizzy Borden house.

QUESTION OF THE MONTH: The Follow/Subscribe Page

I need your answer before 1/28/22

Picture yourself in a podcast app in front of a podcast you might actually enjoy. Think of this experience and comment on it.
What caught your eye?
Is the description important?
Do you subscribe? or “Cherry Pick” episodes.
Do you ever subscribe/Follow?

As we all want more followers/subscribers (and yes we know most of us find our podcasts via word of mouth), BUT when you're in an app, (I realize this is kind of vague), but what goes through your mind before you press either play or subscribe/follow?

Don't forget to tell us a little bit about your show, and your website address.

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Mentioned In This Episode

The Question of the Month (add your submission)

Howard Stern on SiriusXM

Ben Affleck Movie The Tender Bar

David Letterman My Next Guest Needs No Introduction

Paul Harvey

Steve Jobs introduces iPhone in 2007

About the Author
Owner of the School of Podcasting. Also produces the "Ask the Podcast Coach." He is also the author of the book "More Podcast Money" and is a regular speaker at podcasting and media conventions.

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