Public speaking can sometimes trigger an adrenaline rush. You might feel charged with energy or a bit nervous. For some speakers this translates into talking too fast and sometimes a rise in voice pitch which makes even a knowledgeable speaker sound like Minnie Mouse.
Pay attention to audience feedback. If one person reports a problem with understanding you, this may be an individual perception or opinion. But if several do, you need to time yourself.
Use this test. First, record a casual conversation with a friend. Then, compare the number of words per minute to a recording of one of your recent speaking presentations.
Ask yourself, “Did I deliberately speed up my presentation to meet a time constraint?” If you did, maybe you were trying to include too much material. If this is true, you need to cut your presentation, editing for clarity, specificity, and emotional connection. Shorter is more memorable and more quotable.
Then ask yourself, “Do I always speak quickly? Or just when I am giving a speech?” If so, you need to slow down your delivery.
Start to pace yourself before you even hit the podium. As you are putting together your remarks or developing your presentation consider the logical places to slow down.
It is actually okay to speak quickly as long as you leave yourself room for pauses and silence. The faster you talk, the longer your pauses should be.
Give the audience time to digest what you have just said. For example, if you say something profound or suggest something like, “Consider the proposal in front of you,” you are asking the audience to think. Give them time to do so.
Finally, here is an excellent slow-down exercise to help you. Practice delivering your speech. Pause for one second at a comma, two seconds at the end of a sentence, and three seconds after a paragraph. (You can count the seconds the same way you did as a child, saying “one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi… ” silently to yourself.) Then, breathe and smile!
For useful strategies to help you calm yourself before your presentation read my article, “Public Speaking – What You Can Do to Conquer The Jitters.”
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