Silence can be one of the most powerful tools in business. But we constantly make needless concessions in a conversational vacuum because one party cannot bear the discomfort of a pause. We should make room for silence. It can be difficult to practise, but it soon becomes easy and then perversely enjoyable. Ultimately, the mastery of silence is empowering.

Forcing a pause should be seen as a positive and can act as a reminder for you to take a step back from your presentation. If you are very excited about your topic and tend to talk away ten to the dozen, it can sometimes sound as if you are rambling. You need to give the audience an opportunity to digest all the information and time for them to think through your points. A good practice is to plan your forced pause at a time that you can invite questions from your audience.

Try to consciously slow down the speed at which you speak by using pauses to help your audience absorb what you're saying. Don't be afraid of pauses: they can signal a change of topic or a particularly important point, and they can also help to keep you calm and in control by giving you time to look over your notes. And remember to breathe - practising controlled breathing techniques can help you feel calm so that you don't end up gasping for a breath in the middle of a sentence.

Speaking confidently during a presentation is a life-skill you will take with you to any workplace or situation when you need to get your point across. But all too often the fear of presenting forces you to talk too quickly, and you forget to stop for breath.

Speaking quickly leaves your audience frustrated as they try desperately to decipher what you have said, and what you are showing them. It's impossible, then, for any audience to consider how what you are saying fits with their own knowledge and experience, and they are likely just to give up the effort of listening.

Think about numerical and statistical data - these are especially difficult to retain if you are talking too quickly, or if the speaker doesn't leave a slight pause before and after delivering the information to make sure it doesn't run into the surrounding words.

Another tip is to use notes to remind yourself when to take a pause at certain points in your presentation. You could, for example, write messages for yourself such as when to PAUSE or STOP AND REFLECT for a couple of seconds. Even SLOW DOWN written as a reminder in big, red letters can help. This is especially effective when showing a diagram or technical data and you want the audience to give the slide more than a fleeting glance. There is nothing wrong with a few seconds of silence at these times.

Remember, hearing accounts for only a small percentage of learning, and so is the least effective method of learning if used alone; while it is estimated that 75% of learning is derived from the eyes. When people see and hear new material, they will retain approximately 50% of what you present. Give them time to see and hear what they need to from your presentation.

As well as slowing yourself down, there are many tools you can use in PowerPoint to add impact and space.

For example, you can use a Keyboard Shortcut to make the screen black or white during a PowerPoint slide show. Rather than leave the current slide on screen, you can blank it out. Your option is to choose to make the screen black or white. The choice usually depends on how your screen will look due to the available lighting in the room. Quick keyboard shortcuts you might find useful to use during your presentation include pressing the B key on the keyboard to make the screen black, or press the W key on the keyboard to make the screen white. When you want to return to the slide show, press the B or W key to return to the last slide.

As a useful way to create a break in your presentation is to use a narration in a slide show with someone else doing the talking. You can either record a narration before you run a slide show or record a narration during a slide show and include audience comments in the recording. If you don't want narration throughout the presentation, you can record comments only on selected slides or turn off the narration so that it plays only at certain times. To be able to record and hear a narration, your computer must be equipped with a sound card, microphone and speakers.

When you are confident that you know where you will have a break from talking during your presentation, you can set the slide timings manually. PowerPoint 2010 will automatically record your slide timings when you add narration or you can manually set the slide.

If you want the next slide to appear either when you click the mouse or automatically after the number of seconds that you enter - whichever comes first - select both the On Mouse Click and the Automatically After check boxes. Turning off the slide timings does not delete them. You can turn the timings back on at any time without having to recreate them. However, when the slide timings are turned off, your slides will not automatically advance when you record a narration, and you will need to manually advance the slides.

Another way to slow things down a bit is to try not to do all the talking. Make your presentation interactive and invite everyone to participate at given points. Think of this time as another pause to give you time to relax and refocus as your audience settles down.

Obviously PowerPoint offers the ideal channel to build in pauses and helps you change pace whenever you are presenting. Think about handouts, examples using video links, and animation in your presentation. Giving your audience something to look other than yourself as this can help take the pressure off and you will be less tempted to waffle. So the next time you create a PowerPoint presentation and you are struggling to include something to give dramatic impact, just think about the power of silence.