slow down speaking

Presentation Tips – Speaking too quickly and how to slow down…

I was at a conference once, where several of the speakers were talking way too quickly…

and I must say it is something I sometimes do – especially when I get excited and carried away with my talk! So writing this article on speaking too quickly and giving presentations tips on how to slow down when you make a business presentation is for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s.

Firstly make sure you have the structure and content to support a nice pace. If you don’t have a structure yet, check out the Simply Amazing Structure (SAS) blog.

Assuming you have that right here are a few tips to slowing down when making a presentation and not speaking too quickly:

  • Imagine your talk is structured a little like a book with words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters. At the beginning of the book there’s an intro to the whole book so the audience knows where they are – start here.
  • Then at each chapter you’ll know there is a small introduction to the subject and a general overview (to whet the audiences appetite as to what’s to come).
  • As you talk them through the book, picture and imagine punctuation within your talk.
  • At the end of each “sentence “take a short pause, to let the ideas sink in. Sometimes if you are a speedy speaker who finds it less easy to slow down, it can be effective to just take longer pauses at the end of each sentence ego let the audience catch up with: what you said, and what it means for them.
  • At the end of each paragraph take a longer pause (and ideally for engagement reasons you’ll want to have included an audience interaction point, eg: you could include a tag question, couldn’t you?)
  • At the end of each “chapter” is a summary of what you covered and the key points to sign-post you are moving to a new topic or chapter.  If appropriate take a break and do an exercise to solidify the previous learning.  This gives you time to refocus on the big picture and keep track that you are on time.
  • If you are more of an auditory person rather than the book metaphor – imagine your presentation as a piece of music or a song.  At the end of each bar, take a mini pause before launching into the next.  At the end of each line take a short pause and add a rest every so often. Add in a long pause at the end of each verse, culminating with a crescendo at the end. Use the chorus to remind people of where you are and where you are going.
  • Of course, if you are speaking to an international audience you really will want to slow down as well as pause; they have at least one or more additional step to take which is to hear it, translate it then apply what they have heard.  When I delivered presentation skills training to a group of European trainers I had a visual on the desk in front of me which said S-l-o-w  d-o-w-n to remind me and it seemed to work!!
  • You can use mobile apps to slow down as well now which is very handy!
  • Remember to have a glass of water handy – when you want to re-gather your thoughts, slowly wander over to your glass of water and take a sip. Keep any notes next to the glass of water so you can easily glance down and check where you are, especially to check how you are doing for time so you remain on track.

Even with a good presentation, speaking too quickly can cause many issues. It doesn’t give the audience enough time to process your message, it might impact on the amount of gravitas people perceive you to have and it doesn’t give you much time to think as you progress through your presentation. Instead, practise these tips for slowing down and learn more in our book ‘High-Performance Presentations.

Simply Amazing Training offers professional presentation skills coaching and public speaking coaching for companies in and around LondonDorsetKentLeicestershire and Hertfordshire.

Posted by Dee Clayton on 11 Sep 2013

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