Speak Slower Than You Think Is Natural


I’m a very fast talker.

The average English-speaking person speaks at about 120 words per minute. I suspect that I speak at about 150, with gusts up to about 225, when I get on a roll.

It’s a natural tendency to speak faster when you’re nervous, or excited. And a faster pace signals excitement or urgency, so it can be a good thing in some cases. More often, however, our pace can increase dramatically, and we’re not aware of doing so.

To help you take control of your speaking pace, and to help you keep your verbal velocity more deliberate, record your talks and presentations. Listen to them carefully afterward, paying attention to your pacing. In addition, consider planting someone in the audience who can signal you when you’re raging out of control.

For speakers whose pattern is to speak at a higher rate of speed, slowing ourselves down can feel painful and unnatural. If you’re a fast talker, one way to flag yourself down is to embed a yield sign into your mental notes. As you may remember, keeping mental notes was the topic of Chapter Ten, Item #82. This gives you a mental reminder to be conscious of your speed, and to slow your pace down to a speed that may feel less than natural to you. If it feels uncomfortably slow to you, it’s likely about right for the audience.

To this day, I run into this problem all the time. When I provide a webinar, or do a recording session, I post a sign that says, “SLOW DOWN,” in big block letters, and I keep this sign on my wall or desk. I also record almost every presentation I give, so I can review them and further improve my delivery. In almost every presentation or talk I give, I find at least one occasion where I go off the rails with my pacing.

So, what’s the lesson? If you’re a fast talker, build in some flags to slow you down to a pace that might feel a little uncomfortable for you. That’s probably the right pace for the audience.

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