8 Tips to avoid Speaking too fast in a Presentation

Don’t you just hate it when you are just prepared to be done with your presentation? You begin with your presentation and there it is, a voice saying “could you please go a little slow”. Take it from my personal experience or venting. Well at least I had a reason called ‘time limit.’

You might have noticed or heard in government or insurance advertisements on television. In the end, there is some fast rumbling noise, about being cautious before blindly falling into the bluff. I always wondered why they even put it in the advertisement.

Now imagine you giving a presentation sounding just like an insurance person. On the other hand, people are waiting for you to just knock it off. This is because maybe in your head you are making sense but to the audience, you are not. Speaking too fast may lure your audience to irritation.

Seriously, if you often fall for it then frantically speaking we are here for you.

Following you will find simple 8 tips to avoid speaking too fast in a presentation.

1.      PRACTICE YOUR PAUSES

Press your Pause

Many times it happens when we speak we speak too fast, we need a break and so we slow down for a while. When this pattern keeps repeating it is hard for the ones who are listening to us, identify what we are conveying to them. It also gives your audience an uncanny impression of you. Instead of slowing down, include pauses in your speech. It will not only provide you a pace while talking but also a structure to your presentation.

To simplify this even more:

  • Pause on all the commas and full stops in your speech.
  • Insert an extra-long pause before you say anything important.
  • When you have a one liner of your presentation, add a dramatic pause before you say it.
  • Pause before and after each point when you are listing points and ideas.
  • You can also use pointers and cues to remind yourself to take a pause. For instance prepare a slide show* or have cue cards with you.
  • Try engaging the audience when you have to pause. For instance ask them for any queries for what you just spoke about.
  • Script and preplan your pauses.

*Preparing a slid show is an art in itself and has many advantages to it too. To know more about the same check out this article, ‘4 Reasons Your Presentation Is Boring (& How To Fix It)’.

2.      BE CONSCIOUS OF YOUR BREATHING

When you speak too rapidly you are most likely to be flushed and out of breath. In order to complete a sentence one might hold their breath for too long. This then results in an unnecessary long pause as you run out of air or make you seem as you are anxious. Either of the cases is not in your favour. To avoid speaking too fast:

  •  Have rhythmic breathing: Just like your pauses, have rhythms in breathing. Make sure to catch a breath when you pause. This way you kill 2 birds from one stone, take a breather with a pause.
  • Practice meditative and calming techniques: Firstly, control your impulse in general. Some people who naturally tend to speak fast impost the same amount of enthusiasm when they are giving a presentation. So try this technique wherein someone asks you something, pause for 2-3 seconds and then reply. This will calm your tone in general.

Secondly, before starting your presentation or going to the stage try to perform some breathing exercises. It won’t just calm you down a little but also will provide you with a rhythm beforehand. For instance, before I start my presentation I take 3 huge breaths. Breath in with your nose, hold it for 3 seconds and expand your lungs. Then slowly breathe out from your mouth.

3.      TIME YOURSELF

Sometimes you are given a time limit to deliver your presentation. This can lead to 2 splitting disasters. Either you mug up the entire presentation and deliver in a robotic and monotonous way or by heart the topic and start retching information.

 To avoid the above record and time yourself. It’s a known fact that an average person speaks about 100-130 words per minute. If you have written material in front of you, say it and record as if you are giving a speech. Notice how many words and sentences you cover in a minute. Later, segregate and divide the pauses that you can take or maybe improvise your presentation.

You can easily fill in the bridges with the help of technology. There are a few apps that are built specifically to help to slow down your pace. They don’t only help you with your pace but also to well articulate your speech.

  • Speech Pacesetter: This app helps you pace your speech and deliver it in a clear, understandable manner. You can choose a text and the pace suitable for you with the help of the function called ‘speed-adjustable visual cue’. As you practice or speak it highlights every word and syllable with it. This app contains a variety of different texts and reading passages, for every age group. But the best part of it is that you can also create a custom library. Wherein you can upload and save your specific presentation. 
  • Metronome pace apps: Metronome Beats is one of my preferred ones but any metronome apps will work fine. What a metronome app does is help you to have a clear and conversational pace, which ranges between100-130 words. You can also use this for your old audio/videos of you speaking. It can be also conveniently used on your phone to calculate your speed when you speak. 
  • Ummo: If you use more filler such as ummms, so, you know and so on…. when giving a speech, this app will help you eradicate them. It will also help you to figure out your momentum as to when to pause and take a breather. 

It’s a great app that counts all the fillers that you use when giving a speech and call yourself out on it.

  • Orai: This app works best for those whose native language is not English. You can record your speech in ORAI and it will provide you with action-oriented feedback. For instance, how to improve your pronunciation, pauses, fillers and other speech elements to work on. This app also helps with the previous recording of your speech and will provide you with fruitful feedback. 
  • Toastmaker Time: This app will help you to time yourself whenever you are given a precious time limit. Sometimes when you are asked to give a 30 minutes speech you might tend to finish in 20 minutes because you are speaking too fast. To avoid this all you need is a gentle reminder, cue in ‘Toastmaker Time’. You can not only practice with it but also carry it with you on stage or boardroom when delivering a speech. 
  • Confident public speaking (android) or Public Speaking with Andrew Johnson (ios): One of the main reasons that you tend to speed up your speech is that you are nervous. This app will help you to calm yourself down and put yourselves together. Both of them are 2 different pre-guided speaking meditation apps that you can listen to when you feel the butterflies before giving a speech. 

4.      ENUNCIATE MORE

 Before we start, watch this clip.

First of all let me be very clear, I am not asking you to spit an unnecessary cause of a rainy day for people sitting in the front row. You don’t want to punish them for being punctual.

Okay jokes apart, if you haven’t noticed then let me point it out to you the actor in the clip who enunciated spoke slower than joey. He had vivid pauses and more breathers. Compared to him you can notice Joey was going much faster.

Tip 1: Do not club words together.

 Didyouknow, somepeople liketo clubwordstogether?

Read the above sentence as it is. Now you know what clubbing the words sounds like. Try to avoid this as much as possible because you tend to jumble up the meaning of the sentence.

 To avoid this, the simple thing to do is “Take one word at a time”.

Tip 2: Practice Tongue Twister.

I know it sounds childish but it works like a charm. It open up for mouth, improves pronunciation and is a great warm up exercise.

Try: “The lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue” Or “rubber baby buggy bumpers.” Do it repeatedly, at least 5-6 times.

Tip 3: Give closure to all your phonetics

People usually focus more on vowels and forget about consonants. It might work for some accents but not all. For instance in British accents they focus more on vowels. But if you want to work on slowing down on your speed then focus on the whole word. Some consonant voice such as ‘d’, ‘t’ and many more have a larger impact on voice.

It also helps you to speak loudly and open your mouth more for much better pronunciation.

5.      SPEAK OUT LOUD

As discussed above, why is it important to speak loudly?

You don’t have to scream but to pace your tone so that it is loud and clear. Often whilst people speak hastily their voice sinks. As if they are mumbling to themselves. This makes it hard for your audience to concentrate and you will find a very confused look on their face, trying to figure out what you said.

Step 1: Read your text/ material out loud.

Read the material or a passage at your normal speed but out loud. You will notice that your speed is slower compared to when you read it in your mind or at normal pace.

Step 2: Read your text/ material at various tempo.

Now that you notice that your speed lowers down when you speak in your head and when you speak out loud, start reciting your text at different tempos. Slowly raise your voice and slow your speed when you speak.

It does seem strange at first but will definitely help you find your tempo. 

Step 3: Ask for opinions.

Constructive criticism always works. Try to get a second opinion from your friends or colleagues.

Here’s a video to give you clarity about some of the points we discussed above.

6.      ASK YOUR AUDIENCE

Sometimes a few pointers are too basic in a presentation and you have to skim them through. So you end up rapidly finishing it up.

Even after doing it, ask your audience both before and after if they want you to explain it further. It will help you to gain a perspective if you need to go slow or not.

 Not only will it help with clarity, it will also help to have a moment to yourself to breathe.

7.      TRY TO BUILD A CONNECTION WITH YOUR AUDIENCE

  • Eye Contact

While presenting a topic try to maintain eye contact with your audience. As their facial and non-verbal cues will help you to adapt to the different tempo and speed that we talked about earlier.

  • Be more Interactive

There is difference between presenting and talking factual. When you interact with your audience two things will happen. First, you will get to know if they get what you are saying and so on to adjust your pace. Second, when you ask them something you get to take a pause and breathe.

To know more about what is the difference between presenting and talking facts, read this article ‘Communication Vs Information: What’s The Difference?’ This will give more clarity as to how to be more interactive.

8.      MORE EXERCISES

  • Use a prop

For instance you can have a water bottle in your hand as a reminder to pause and drink just a little water. This will avert a natural pause whenever you are giving a speech or a presentation.

Simple isn’t it!

  • Do the “turtle talk”

At first it may come weird to you but this will help to gain control on the speed of the speech. Pick a simple sentence and read it out loud. Say it over and over again. Each time you repeat it, lower your vocals just tad. Keep repeating the sentence until its very low or inaudible. Now say the sentence normally as you do. You might feel that your normal pace has lowered as compared to earlier.

P.s: you can do it in reverse as well, starting from lower vocal to louder vocal.

  • Match and rate yourself with a good speaker.

You can do this exercise when talking to a friend. All you have to do is match you talking speed to your friend. You might fell funny at first because it might not like you. All you have to remember is you are not slow you are just matching another person’s pace.

Another way of doing this exercise is match you talking speed to speaker from youtube or someone who you really admire. This will also help you with the direct projection of how you should give your speech.

WHY DO YOU SPEAK FAST?

There is more than one possible reason as to why you speak fast.

1. Naturally fast speaker.

You might have noticed, talkative people speak faster than others. This is because they are used to it from a very young age.

2. Your thought process runs faster than you know.

Sometimes there are a lot on your mind and you want to say it out quickly before you lose your train of thoughts or forget one point or another. Eventually you end up speaking much too fast than one could understand.

3. English being your second language.

Psychology says that if your native or first language is other than English you will have a speed influence on English as well. For instance take Italian or Telugu (one of the languages spoken in India). If you hear them giving a presentation it will be much faster than usual.

4. Anxious or tensed about presentation.

This is one of the very common reasons. People just want to be ‘done with’ it and so they try to speak quickly. If you fear public speaking or get anxious check this article on ’13 Public Speaking Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)’. It will help you in other perspectives as well.

DRAWBACKS OF SPEAKING TOO FAST

  •  Ineffective communication.
  •  Important points may get lost in transactions.
  •  Lowers the credibility of the speaker.
  • Audience may critique as a result of zero gravitas.
  • Misunderstanding of your message in general.
  • Absence of seriousness, which might seem insulting to the audience.

HOW TO TELL SOMEONE THAT THEY TALK TOO FAST?

Politely.

But jokes apart….

There is always a way of doing things especially when it comes to telling your friend or your colleague to slow down when they talk too fast. This situation should be tackled meticulously, as you don’t want to hurt them.

  • Come up with a signal to get to the point:

Some people have a habit of painting the picture with all the slightest details. It sure helps the listener to concentrate more but this may prove to be ineffective when you are around the clock. To help them to navigate back to the point ask a simple question. That way it seems like you are interested in knowing more and at the same time you are not branching out.

For instance, if you have prepared a slide show then ask a question about the next slide to move on.

  • Tell the Truth:

Honesty is genuinely the best policy. Let the person know that they are going a tad bit fast, but do it privately. That way they won’t only improve but also will know that you truly are their well-wisher.

In case they happen to speed up some topic, what you can do is politely ask them to repeat. For instance, “I am sorry, but could you please repeat the topic. I couldn’t get it as you went a tad bit fast.”  

  • Use Humour:

This works best only when done tastefully. It sure seems easy to use humour but very easily can go south. You don’t need to induce insult if it’s not on yourself but simply lighten the mood.

  • Take advantage of their PAUSE:

If a person is talking too fast they will likely take a breather, that’s your moment. All you need to do is very politely remind them to go slow. This way you can convey your message without interfering with them or their chain of thoughts.

  • Make them cautious of Time Limit:

When you know that person is a fast talker before the person starts to speak make them cautious about the time limit. This works both formally and informally.

If in a meeting, for instance, as they are about to start presenting let them respectfully know about the time constraint. If you are taken by surprise, by a person who talks too fast then just simply start the conversation by saying “Before you start I have only 10 minutes to get back to my work so make it quick” or “I would love to stay and chat but I have got only 10 minutes.”

  • Mirror Them:

Just right after they finish speaking, repeat what you got from the conversation at a similar pace as they spoke. When they get that you couldn’t understand what they said, automatically they will lower their pace in order to explain themselves better.

This will naturally give them a hint to go slow in general. If in case they still don’t slow down ask them to repeat it in at a slower pace.

IS TALKING FAST A DISORDER?

Not all who talk fast will have this disorder but those who have this disorder called ‘Cluttering’ do talk fast. A person suffering from cluttering will not only talk fast but also fill their sentences with a lot of fillers. For instance ‘ummmm’, ‘like’, ‘you know’, ‘uhhh’, ‘I mean’ and many such.

CONCLUSION

So my fellow fast talkers, once you cut the cake you have to eat it too. You have all the tools that you need, make an effort and start to encompass them when preparing for a speech.

You may find it mechanical in the beginning. But hey, only then you’ll know you are doing it right. Once you get the hang of it and accustomed to it there’ll be nothing like rocking a presentation with your words.

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