There may be a number of reasons that you feel a need to speak slower. Speaking too fast while presenting to an audience is common. Often you will find that you speak faster in an exciting or stressful situation. And some people just speak fast naturally.
Whatever the reason, it is known that a speed of about 140 words per minute is about right for your audience to understand.
Below are a few of the more convincing reasons that you should try to speak slower.
Appearance of confidence
Often, speaking too fast is taken as a sign of being nervous or lacking confidence. If you rush through your message, you may come across as not completely believing in it yourself. If you appear to be confident and completely behind your message, people will feel that your message is more worthy of their attention. They will then be more likely to listen.
If you talk too fast, you might even give the impression that you don’t actually want people to listen to you. This is likely to make your audience subconsciously question whether they should!
You will have more time
Another great result of speaking slower is that you have more time. More time to think. More time to listen. More time to participate in the conversation. This will result in better communication for everyone.
Your message will be more clearly thought out and you will feel less pressured. You will be able to have a more meaningful and genuine interaction.
This alone is almost the ultimate reason for learning to speak slower. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, you will actually save time. The conversation will flow better and take less time because everyone understands the message more clearly. If you speak too fast there is the real risk that you will have to repeat yourself or explain parts of your message more than once. This is frustrating for everyone!
If you spend the time to really think about what you are saying before you do, the message will be clearer. Any small amount of time that you lose by slowing down will be saved by only needing to say things once.
You are easier to understand
When you speak slower, you give yourself a chance to form your words better. If you are rushing through words, your mouth may not have enough time to keep up with your brain. This will impact on your diction and may even cause your listeners to miss your message.
In many situations if your audience doesn’t completely understand you, they may not tell you though.
Regardless of if it is related to their lack of confidence or just apathy, you will still have missed the chance to communicate your message.
You appear more trustworthy
If you communicate your message in a way that is easier to understand, people will feel that you are more genuine. This is because of an expectation that you are truly interested in seeking their understanding.
Having your audience understand that you are truly interested in their opinion and in seeking their understanding will generate trust. This trust is particularly important if you are speaking on something that is training or sales related.
You will be able to breathe better
Pausing at appropriate times when speaking will also give you enough time to breathe. If you don’t breathe enough while speaking, you may find yourself running out of breath while talking. This shortness of breath may prevent you from delivering enough emphasis on an important point. It may also mean that your voice is too quiet or lacks conviction. This may give an impression of a lack of confidence in your delivery (see above).
If you do not breathe deeply enough, you may not take in enough air to support your voice. This could mean that some of the words towards the end of your statements lack clarity or volume.
Breathing enough, especially breathing deeply, also has the benefit of helping to calm you. If you are constantly out of breath, your body feels that it is suffocating and survival instinct (i.e. fear and a desire to run away) will take over.
In the worst case, this shortness of breath may also lead to increased anxiety.
One way to ensure that you breathe correctly is to stand up straight. If your posture is slumped, your diaphragm cannot move the air from your lungs properly.
Although it is often hard to do when actually speaking, you should be aware of your breathing. It should generally be as fast as it is when you are resting. The best way to manage this though, is to just take a breath at the relevant breaks in speaking. These are essentially the same as where you would put punctuation in a written sentence.
You have an opportunity to dramatize concepts
If you are comfortable with your message, you will be able to turn your attention to ensuring understanding. Instead of focusing on getting the words out, you will be able to illustrate the ideas in other ways. These may include analogies, examples or even working in a bit of humor.
If you have prepared other ways to illustrate your ideas, you will have a chance to focus on these. These could include through non-verbal communication cues such as gestures or through images or presentation slides.
Many of these reasons are examples of the need to ‘slow down to move faster’ when it comes to speaking. Don’t be in a rush to communicate your message. If it is important or delivered well enough, people will listen.
Photo by fatboyke (Luc)