According to Atkinson (e.g. 1983, 1984a, 1984b), a limited range of rhetorical devices are consistently used by political speakers to invite audience applause. A detailed review is presented of the research literature relevant to Atkinson's analysis, including a series of evaluative studies conducted by the author. From this review, it is argued that Atkinson overestimated the role of rhetorical devices in inviting applause and underestimated the significance of other features, such as asynchronous applause, speech delivery, speech content and uninvited applause. To integrate these features, a re-conceptualisation is presented of how audience applause occurs in political speeches, based on a fundamental distinction between invited and uninvited applause.