Dead Air Is Good!


(By Randy Lane) Most of us have had the dead air nightmare – you’re live, the music runs out, you can’t find a song or commercial, and there’s nothing to fill the dead air. When many of us started in radio, dead air was a cardinal sin. As it turns out, dead air is actually good!

Silence/pausing is a powerful communication technique that was used effectively by great orators from Winston Churchill to Ronald Reagan to Barrack Obama. Pausing was also a trademark of radio great Paul Harvey.

Making an emotional connection with an audience is not only conveyed by your words but also by your pauses.

Here are six ways to use the power of the pause for listener bonding:


In news/story features, pause when ending a story and transitioning to a new one. Additionally, pause when switching to a different topic in content segments. A one-second pause makes the story or discussion stand out and signals a transition to the audience.

Dramatic Pause

Rev up the suspense with a pause just before or after making a key statement or raising a relevant question. Dramatic pauses intensify the tension of dialogue.

Punchline Pause

In live situations pause just before delivering a punchline to ramp up anticipation and set up the audience for the payoff. Respect the laugh zone by continuing to pause until the laughter or the groans start to trail off.

Be brave and try stand-up at open mic nights. It’ll significantly improve your timing and help you get comfortable with pausing.

Storytelling Pause

Draw the audience into your story with pauses as the action shifts. “Then, suddenly out of nowhere, pause…” creates a heightened feeling of anticipation in listeners.

Verbal Pauses

Words like “um,” “uh,” “well,” “so,” “you know,” and “like” are filler words that dilute your points. Harvard communication expert Steven D. Cohen, recommends that you eliminate weak language like this by pausing, thinking, and then continuing.

Vulnerable Pauses

Pauses are particularly effective during vulnerable conversations. Let uncomfortable silence play out. Dramatic pauses touch listeners emotionally and they remember them.

When we get comfortable with silence, just maybe we’ll stop having those dead-air dreams!

Randy Lane is the owner of the Randy Lane Company, which coaches and brands radio and television personalities, business professionals, sports personalities, entrepreneurs, and pop culture artists, helping them master communication skills to have an impact on their audiences. Read Randy’s Radio Ink archives here.


  1. The late Paul Harvey (mentioned above) was famous for his pregnant pauses. He even used them in commercials. I still remember one: “That’s Roach Prufe P-R-U F-E.”


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