Questions

Hi! I respectfully disagree completely with Ryan, Wendy and Susan, and absolutely concur with Sundar and Donna. The real question is -- why do you think your presentations are too slow? Have you received feedback from your participants? Are you seeing the classic signs of boredom (restlessness, audience members not looking at you any longer, people leaving, side conversations among your audience)?

Here's what I think: it may not be the speed of your speaking that you need to improve; instead, it may be the tone, the content, or the dynamics.

Here's my reasoning: the rate of speed that you speak will ideally fall into a small range that allows for both audience comprehension, and audience engagement. If you are speaking slowly enough that your audience can hear and absorb what you're saying, but quickly enough that your audience isn't mentally disengaging, then your speed is fine.

The tone of your voice can make a huge difference. Tone is the quality of warmth, or determination, or coldness, or informativeness that you naturally bring to your speaking style. It includes the pitch of your voice--the natural range of melodic notes that your speaking voice encompasses. This is where you get a 'monotone' sound (if your voice tends to stay on one tonal note, never going down or up in ptich), or go too far the other way and sound like you're singing (if your notes vary wildly on a musical staff, going from a low voice to a high-pitched voice rapidly and often).

If you're monotone and putting your listeners to sleep, try adding more musicality to your voice.

Next, let's look at your dynamics. This includes how loudly or quietly you speak. Are you speaking so quietly that listeners have to strain to hear you and understand what you're communicating? This leads to rapid listener fatigue, and results in disengagement. Are you speaking loudly, and people tune out in order to retreat from your verbal assault? The best way to present is to speak loudly enough that the people in the back of the room (if you don't have a microphone) can clearly hear you. Aim your voice toward a person sitting in the last row. But remember to use occasional quieter moments and occasional louder moments to emphasize your content. Be a little quieter when you're wanting your audience to think and reflect on what you're saying, and a little louder when you want to really drill down on a concept and emphasize your point.

Then there is the content of your presentations. Of course, this is an entirely different topic that has more to do with the information you're presenting and how well it ties to the interests and goals of your audience. It may be that you need to do a bit more audience analysis and determine the most relevant and engaging content and then work with a presentation coach to determine how best to present that content.

Last, but not least, you may determine--based on participant feedback, along with your own self-critiquing through recording yourself both audibly and visually--that you truly do need to speed up your speaking. This is the point where I disagree with a few of the other commenters; it is entirely possible that you truly do speak too slowly when presenting. A slow-paced presentation is just as bad as (and often coexists with) a monotone speaking style.

A comfortable listening rate is 130-160 words per minute. Faster than that, and complex sentences or ideas get lost. Slower than that, and people's minds automatically jump ahead past what you're saying, mentally filling in the ends of your sentences for you. So if you find that you're speaking slower than 130 words per minute, you know you'll want to develop a faster pace.

Another thing to note is that the simpler your words are, the faster you can deliver them to your audience while keeping a high comprehension rate. If you have a very technical topic, you'll want to deliver your information more slowly, but if you're speaking at an elementary or middle school language level, bump your rate up. How do you determine this? In most word processing programs, you can go to Tools and use a grade-level analyzer; you can also search for a Flesch-Kincaid analyzer online. This tool will determine the approximate grade level that your writing is geared toward. The higher grade level of your writing, the slower you'll want to speak.

So how do you speed up? The best way is through complete familiarity with your topic, and thorough practice of your speech/presentation. The more you run through your presentation, the faster you will be able to deliver the ideas contained within, as you become more and more comfortable and familiar with the words that you say. This will avoid the pauses to think that can accompany being unfamiliar with your presentation. Those pauses can be presentation killers, giving your listeners far too much time to sit and wait while you think (even a moment's pause, if repeated often, becomes interminable).

One thing you can do is to carefully go through your script notes, writing down areas of natural pauses and underlining sentences where you can speed up. Practice varying your rate of speech so that your thoughtful or difficult concepts are spoken more slowly, and your easier or more humorous concepts are delivered quickly. Be sure to rewrite any areas that your tongue naturally wants to trip over; some words give people problems, and rewriting to completely avoid those words will benefit your overall rate of speech. Instead of struggling over saying the word "cellular" you can say "wireless" or "cell", for example.

Basically, it comes down to practice. Record yourself giving your presentation, record the length of time it took you to deliver your speech, and then do it again, with the goal of taking a few seconds off your time. Then do it again. Then again. Record yourself each time, and make notes on how to improve the next time. You will enjoy a significant improvement in your speaking rate and the time it takes to give your speech, and your audience will enjoy a more engaging presentation!


Answered 4 years ago

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