Public Speaking – Should you SLOW DOWN

This is an AI generated transcript so please forgive any errors and spelling mistakes. 

When you are up in front of that audience in the midst of your public speaking is it important to speak slower than you usually do? Let’s explore that in just a moment.

First of all, I want to say hi. My name’s Shola Kaye and the public speaking coach a professional speaker based in London. I work with organisations who want to prepare their people to speak at conferences and in high-stakes situations. I also work with individuals who want to use speaking to boost their career or to build their business.

Public Speaking – some of us naturally speak slower than others

Do you need to speak slower when you are in front of an audience? That’s the question that I am sometimes asked so let’s have a chat about it today, shall we? A few years ago, I was participating in online dating and I went on a date with a guy who spoke really slowly. So slowly that after about five minutes on the date I was desperate to get away.

Some people naturally speak slower than others, there’s no wrong or right in it. What was fascinating to me was, I was reading about, I think it was a woman, who’d founded a dating agency and it was one of these introduction agencies. She was talking about the different criteria that they used to match up one person with another.

She said that one of the features that they used was how quickly a person spoke. If they had someone who was a slow speaker they would match them with another slow speaker. Or if somebody spoke quite fast, they would match that person with a fast speaker, which I thought was fascinating.

Public Speaking – how pauses can have a positive impact on your speech

Regarding your public speaking however, is it important to slow down? I think the answer to that is yes and no. Typically, when I run workshops with people we do an exercise. I have a course which is called The Speaker’s Toolkit and it’s all about using the voice and the body as a toolkit to make your words even more impactful.

One of the exercises that I run on this this course is using pauses. So literally we recite nursery rhymes and I ask people to add pauses wherever they feel is appropriate. Children’s nursery rhymes are often quite silly. They tend to have a basis but they don’t tend to mean a great deal. Today they might have a historical basis. So we would take nursery rhymes and we’d add pauses here and there.

What people typically find is when they add pauses to their speaking they also add more expression, they add more emotion, their diction improves so just by looking out for where to add some gaps or where to add pauses. There are a whole bunch of other benefits that’s flooding to your speaking at the same time.

One thing you might want to do when you’re planning your presentation is think about where in particular you can add pauses. It might be to underline something you’ve just said or it might be because you’ve said something very serious. Or you’re about to say something which is very important so you pause beforehand. Of course, adding more pauses will have the general effect of slowing down your rate of speech.

What you can also do is go through your presentation and look for key points, okay? And figure out if you’re going to emphasize those with pausing or just with slowing down your words when you make those points. Other speech coaches that I’ve listened to say that you don’t have to slow down your typical rate of speech. However, as long as you pause more frequently in between, or perhaps you speak a sentence quite fast but then you have a pause after the sentence with people to catch up, then that is fine.

Public Speaking – work out what works well for you and make your diction a priority

You’ve really got to work out what’s best for you. Some people, when they slow down their rate of speech dramatically, it just sounds wrong. They lose their natural energy and vigour that they have and t’s just not right for them. In that circumstance you might be one of those people who want to add more pauses in strategic moments. Or just take a little breather after you’ve said a couple of sentences to allow people to catch up. But you don’t want to slow down all of your speaking.

Also another thing to keep in mind is if you do speak fast you make sure that you’ve got good diction. Another little story. I was a judge at a speech contest. It was the intern University speech contest and it was I think maybe 10 or 12 different universities from around the country that came together.

There was a we’ve got to the final with the last three speakers and when we were determining who should win there was a woman who had a very strong speech but because some of her diction was lost we were missing the meaning of certain words they were missing what those words were, she got marked down. Because of that she didn’t win.

You’ve got to make sure that every word that you say is intelligible. The way that you can do that while still speaking quickly, is making sure that you’ve got very good diction so every word is pronounced fully. I know that when we’re speaking quickly, this happens to me too, I just want to follow my train of thought get things out there and sometimes the diction suffers as a result, so make sure that that doesn’t happen to you.

Public Speaking – use the concept of expanding time during your speech

If you have made a conscious decision to speak at your typical tempo another interesting aspect of rate of speech is the idea of something called temporal expansion. If you think about we’ve got spatial expansion where we take up more space with our bodies, which is typically associated with being more confident.

People that take up lots of space and get their arms up high or they’re lying back and we’ve got their leg up their foot up on a chair or a table that’s seen as very confident posture. Versus people who are maybe hunched or got their arms folded which makes them smaller.

So large gestures are associated with confidence and in the same way there’s a theory that if we speak slower that’s associated with more confidence – and that’s what the temporal expansion is. Expanding time, taking more time to say our words. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. I’ve seen some very confident people who speak quickly. But there is something to be said for speaking slowly and people knowing that you’ve got a point to make, you’re going to make it in your own time and you won’t be rushed.

So it may be that at certain points in your presentation (again as I mentioned before) you really dig in, you take your time because this is your key point that you want to make and no one should miss it. Then other you might be telling a story and you vary your tempo as you go through the story, right? It’s really up to you. All I’m doing here is making you aware of some of the implications of speaking fast without having good diction or of taking your time to speak where people associate you with being more confident. It’s your choice.

Another interesting thing about this this theory of temporal expansion, is that it gives our brain and message that we are important. So not only is the audience hearing that account taking my time I’m important enough my message is important enough to be shared over a longer period of time than a shorter one.

Also, as we speak slower, there’s a theory that we’re saying through ourselves and giving our brain the message that I’m important my message is important and then that creates a positive feedback loop where we feel more confident we feel more important that we behave even more important like an even more important person and that carries on.

Public Speaking – finding the right tempo can increase your confidence

The end result is a very confident speech a confident speaker feeling good about the message and so on. If you’ve seen Amy Cuddy’s TED talk which is… I forget the name of it now… but it’s all about body language. She talks about how if we use power posing, and very expansive body language, that in turn creates more testosterone and more confidence in the speaker. I’ve read that this temporal expansion.

Speaking slower has the same effect and it actually has a biochemical result in the body. Whether that’s true or not I’m not a psychologist. I haven’t done lots of statistically significant experiments with this but all I can say to you is to try it for yourself. Try speaking slower less is speaking faster and see what effect it has on you and on your audience.

That’s it from me today. In summary, we explored whether you should speak slower when you’re making a presentation versus speaking at your normal tempo. We talked about the importance of good diction if you are speaking a sort of faster clip. The idea that if you speak slower it conveys confidence to your audience and to yourself. At the end of the day you have to choose.

Maybe you add a few extra pauses here and there to improve the overall quality of your presentation and the quality of the delivery and expression. Maybe you just speak as you usually would to a group of friends or to an individual. Try it. Recall your presentations, record your speeches, ask the audience what they thought. Watch back those recordings and see what works best for you.

If you are interested in keeping in touch, why not connect with me on LinkedIn? Say that you’ve watched one of my vlogs or you’ve listened to a podcast. I’d be very very happy to connect back. Go to my website download a freebie or just get in touch if you’re interested in some one-to-one coaching or in using me as a speaker at your next event.

Take care and I’ll speak to you soon. Bye.


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