Do you speak a mile a minute? Do people tell you you talk too fast? Are people advising you to slow down? Do you ever get the glaze over?
There are people out there who speak so beautifully. Their pace seems perfect. They’re engaging and charismatic. But here you are, Speedy Gonzales, confusing people left & right.
As I am sure you are aware, people listen to one thing at a time, and their attention drifts if they can’t understand what you’re saying. If you speak too quickly or talk over them, they will get confused and give up on you.
Slowing down is not the answer.
In grad school for Speech-Language Pathology, we learned that using a metronome with our fast-talking clients was the solution for them. That never sat well with me.
I’m here to tell you that you most likely don’t have to slow down per se. When people slow down, they end…up…sounding…like…this. That’s crazy boring and ultimately ineffectual, and you’ll lose people’s attention quickly. So don’t listen to people who tell you to use a metronome.
Slowing down is not a solution,” says Rick Dale, executive director of the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C. “People who say that don’t understand what’s happening.”
A typical listener has a conversational mode that allows speech to flow at about 150 words per minute. Listeners can handle that speed without being overwhelmed if you use pauses between ideas–pausing not only creates time for them to process but also gives listeners the impression that you’re relaxed and confident.
Get folks to process your messages easily
So how do we get people to process our information without sounding like we’re talking too fast? How can we get them to easily comprehend our message and follow our call to action?
This didn’t happen by magic. Those incredible communicators learned and practice the techniques necessary.
There are three things you need to do.
How to Slow Down
I describe it in more detail below but here are the three things you’ll want to do to speak at a normal pace:
- Speak in bullets. Chunk up your information and separate those chunks with pauses. Doing so allows you to take a breath in & formulate your next bullet in your mind. This is a really great helper for eliminating filler words.
- Use a count of two or three on essential words and a count of 1 on non-content words.
- Vary your intonation. If you were to record yourself speaking on a conference call or during a meeting, you might be surprised to hear that you use the same length of time + volume on each syllable.
Record yourself speaking.
You know I want you to record yourself! Everyone I talk to hates it. You’ll record your tennis game and your piano playing to see where improvements are needed, but God-forbid you actually wanted to assess your communication skills! The only way to improve something is to find out what’s wrong!
What’s happening here that people are so sensitive about their communication skills they’d rather avoid dealing with them or even thinking about them? But I digress. Let’s proceed with the fast-talking.
Slow Down Using Intonation
If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to record yourself, listen to the others in
the meeting with you. You could make it into a fun game. Are they fairly monotone? Is each syllable the same length & volume? Are they making their “and”s louder & more prolonged than the rest of the words in the sentence?
Here’s the deal: If you have one long run-on sentence and you’re talking pretty fast, people will have trouble processing, and after time check out. When you ask your best colleagues what they thought, they may say that you have to slow down. They’d be well-intentioned but misinformed.
Don’t put the emPHAsis on the wrong sylAble.
And let me tell you that this staccato intonation thing is so prevalent! People talk normally when they’re comfortable but as soon as they’re asked to speak in a formal setting they start talking fast and using an even-steven emphasis.
Slow Down Using Chunking
We’ve known about chunking information to help people’s memory and process data. When you use it in your speech you make it easier for people to process what you’re putting out there 🙂
So you most likely don’t need to say to yourself, “I have to slow down.” but would benefit from saying, “I need to speak in bullets and vary my intonation.
So yes, there’s a lot of misinformation about how to slow down your speech. Be sure not to use a metronome and do use chunking with a varied intonation pattern. Ensure the critical terms have a count of at least two and the “grammar glue” only have a count of 1/2 or 1.
Using chunking also helps eliminate filler words.
Natural Pace with Pauses
No matter if you are speaking to a friend or your boss, people prefer to keep the conversation flowing naturally. Don’t just blurt out what you want—naturally pause, wait for an interjection or the other person’s response. Only then, proceed to tell the next part of your story or message.