As a public speaking training coach, I am constantly saying some version of “Whoaaaaa, Nellie!” to my fast-talking clients. By fast-talking, I mean folks whose natural inclination is to talk (and, often, to think) a mile-a-minute, often verbally galloping way ahead of whoever they’re talking to.
If you’re a fast-talker you’re probably going to be inclined to talk even faster when you give a presentation and your nerves and adrenaline kick in. Unfortunately, the faster you talk, the more your audience has to work to keep up with you. And the harder they work to stay at your pace, the quicker they’ll be to tire out and to eventually tune out altogether.
Here are three suggestions from my public speaking training toolkit to help yourself sloooooooow down when you give your next presentation:
1. Assume that your audience is hard of hearing and speak accordingly. This technique (which is also useful for Quiet Talkers) will automatically force you to not only slow down, but to enunciate more clearly, and to raise your voice. Adopting this technique is a good practice even if you’re NOT a fast talker, as there is a good chance that someone in your audience really is hard-of-hearing and will benefit from your thoughtfulness. I was reminded of this when a woman walked up to me after a public speaking training and said “Thank you for speaking so clearly—I had no trouble understanding you, and I’m hearing impaired.”
2. Add more pauses. Dare to stand in silence for a moment before you begin to speak. Then, layer in pauses here and there—a brief one after a comma, a longer one before your next sentence or a new section. After you make a big point, pause so your audience can take it in. Adding pauses will automatically slow you down and give your audience room to absorb what you’ve said.
3. Measure your words-per-minute. A good speaking pace is around 120 words a minute. So, if you’re delivering a speech or presentation that needs to be finished within, let’s say, ten minutes, practice with a timer, and audio record yourself. If you’re within 15 seconds of the allotted time, one way or another, you’re pacing is good. If you’re more than 30 seconds over or under, practice your presentation again and again until you fall within the time parameters.
If you’re a fast-talker, try practicing one or all of the above techniques when you give your next presentation. By giving your audience room to hear you, you’ll increase their engagement and their understanding of your message—which is, of course, what it’s all about.