Tuesday 21st October, 2014

How can I speak more slowly?

If you are a naturally fast talker, how can you slow your speech down so your pace is more appropriate for a presentation?

1. I’d like to start by asking you to pause for a moment to ask yourself whether it is really true that you speak ‘too quickly’. Did someone tell you this or is this something you tell yourself and which has become a belief that you hold about yourself as a speaker?

It’s very common for women to hold beliefs about ourselves as speakers that, when challenged, we discover are not actually true, such as ‘I don’t have a nice voice’ or ‘No one will be interested in what I have to say’ or ‘I speak too quickly’.

When we are very young and still developing our language skills, everyone around us encourages us to speak. However, as soon as we have mastered the difficult skill of talking, messages from the media and those around us seem to discourage us from expressing ourselves! Sometimes, we will be told in no uncertain terms to ‘be quiet’.

More often than not, however, we develop the belief that we shouldn’t speak up or that there is something wrong with the way we express ourselves because on occasions when we have said something our communication hasn’t been rewarded.

A ‘reward’ doesn’t have to be praise. It can be something as basic as ‘acknowledgement’. If we don’t feel that our communication is either acknowledged or appropriate this can be enough for us to develop a belief that we shouldn’t speak or that there is something about the way we communicate that is either wrong or not good enough.

If this idea rings true for you, ask yourself whether this is a helpful thing to believe. What happens if you choose to believe that what you have to say is of great value to others and deserves to be heard?

If you can recall someone telling you to be quiet, ask yourself whether their opinion is of any value now. What someone may have said to you a long time ago may have no meaning now so you can begin to let go to the belief that you should be quiet or talk more slowly and remind yourself that it is important that you speak because your voice and your opinion are of value. Affirm this to yourself and it will become your new belief.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently wrote a book entitled ‘Lean In’ in which she calls for the word ‘bossy’ to be banned! Sheryl believes that telling a girl she is bossy is part of the reason why there are fewer women leaders today. Sheryl says that boys are not discouraged in this way which may be why they have higher self-esteem (think better of themselves) when it comes to communication. Read an article about Sheryl’s book here:

2. Why do you believe that talking quickly is in some way wrong? Have a look at other public speakers in action. You will notice that many of them speak very quickly.

3. Speaking quickly is rarely a problem in itself. However, we can make it difficult for our audience to follow us if we try to fit too many ideas into our presentation. As a rule of thumb, limit yourself to just three ideas and express these ideas in three different ways over the course of your presentation. Practising this will help you to develop the discipline of not cramming too much into your presentation (which usually leads to you speeding up to fit everything in!). The old cliche is true: less is more!

4. To give a smooth presentation, rehearse. Set a timer and rehearse in real time without stopping. Do this as many times as you can before you make your presentation for real. Each time you rehearse in this way you’ll notice how your talk flows and you can edit and modify your speech and your speech patterns for maximum impact and effectiveness.

5. Work on the skill of ‘awareness’. When you are rehearsing or giving a speech for real, develop a habit of ‘noticing’ how you’re doing. If you feel you’re talking too fast, pause, and when you start speaking again do so at a slower rate. Be mindful of your audience. If you really are speaking to fast they will show you signs of discomfort (whether they reaslise if or not, such as sighing or fidgeting – if several do this at once it may be a message to you!).

Learn more from this video…

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Categories: Article, How to, Pausing, Voice, Words

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