Speaking Tips – How to Reduce Your Rate of Speech
One of the most common complaints about public speakers is that they speak too fast or too slowly. How does one determine the proper rate of speech? The best rate is one in which your audience can understand you easily. It can be a slow rate with enthusiasm (pitch changes) or a faster rate with slightly less enthusiasm. For a more technical topic or one in which a lot of new information is presented, a slower rate would be more effective.
People speak fast due to a lack of confidence, certain cultural norms, some disorders and sometimes a lack of awareness that their message is not being understood by listeners. They focus on themselves, not their listeners.
Speakers tend to speak faster in the very beginning of the speech. You want to give a great verbal image, so practice starting slowly for the best first impression. Try your favorite stage fright coping strategy before you begin, to relax yourself. One that works for many people is deep breathing (but not in front of a microphone).
When practicing, record yourself, and listen to your voice. Practice in front of empty chairs, family and friends, or while visualizing your audience. Practice more than you think is necessary. If something happened to your notes or visual aid, would you still be able to do a great job? This extra practice will add to your confidence.
Some people use a visual metronome (a blinking light on some brands of metronomes or on some iPod apps) as a cue for the proper rate. Others prefer to think of the beat of a slow song before starting, to help set the pace.
Mark your speech. If you are finishing early, what additional details should you add? If you are almost to the maximum time, what details towards the end can you delete?
While you are speaking, scan the faces of the audience. Is your message making sense to them? If they seem puzzled, go slower and use simpler words. If they are falling asleep, use more enthusiasm and stories about how your message can be implemented.
Practice answers to common questions you might be asked after your speech. Make sure you know basic statistics or facts of the matter. When answering a question, repeat it first so all know the exact question. Again, keep your rate slow. If you don’t know the answer to the question, invite the audience to help you answer, or take the questioner’s contact information afterwards, promise to locate the answer and respond at a later time.
Take time to make sure your listener can understand your valuable message. Make that rate right!