Whoa, Nellie! What’s the big rush?

By Mary Schrack

Many speechmakers struggle with pacing. Whether the cause is nervousness, memory or habit, it’s easy to rush through your words. However, if you’ve ever been an audience member during a particularly fast-paced speech, you know how frustrating it can be to try to keep up—or even understand the message. Follow this advice to slow down your speech and make it more listener-friendly:

  • Record yourself. You won’t really know how you sound until you listen to yourself. Record your speech and play it back, making special note of your enunciation and pace. If your words slur together or if you can’t discern where one sentence ends and another begins, you need to slow down until they become clear.
     
  • Read aloud. It’s a good idea to practice reading your speech aloud even if you don’t have a problem with speaking too quickly. To focus on your pacing, imagine you are reading a book to a kindergarten class. When reading to children, you pause between sentences, enunciate words and speak slowly so they can keep up. Do the same for your audience. Note: Take care to avoid a patronizing tone of voice. You don’t want to be perceived as condescending!
     
  • Focus on “how,” not “what.” Speakers often rush through their presentations because they are afraid of forgetting something. They spend so much energy worrying about what they’re saying that they lose sight of how they present their message. Review your content until you’re completely confident in it, and then spend your practice time focusing on delivery. Without the anxiety of the message, you will be more aware of your style and more in control of your speed.
     
  • Put yourself in the audience’s shoes. While you make your presentation, imagine that your audience is taking notes. Time your delivery to a speed that would be easy to match with paper and a pen. Your audience may actually be taking notes; speak at a manageable pace so they don’t miss a moment.

What tips do you have for improving pacing?

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One response to “Whoa, Nellie! What’s the big rush?

  1. Pingback: Are Pacing and Speed the Same Thing in Public Speaking? | Open Media Forge

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