Making Good Speakers Great

Slow Down, Please

Many business professionals speak too fast. Do you? It might be your natural energy, and it’s often intensified by nervousness. Regardless of the cause, it’s a serious impediment to effective communication. It makes you difficult to follow. Worse, you can be perceived as lacking steadiness, presence and credibility—not the impression you strive to create!

You already know telling yourself to slow down works for about 30 seconds—then it’s back to the usual “rapid fire.” There is a solution! Four characteristics common to fast talkers provide clues for genuine, lasting change.

If you speak too quickly, you’re not breathing well. Speaking fast makes it difficult to take a breath. Racing through your sentences forces you to grab very short, shallow breaths. Sound familiar? Remember, it takes time for a deep breath to sink into your body. Cultivating the ability to breathe while speaking will automatically slow your speech. You won’t have to think about it all time.

If you speak too quickly, it’s likely you have jaw tension. This prevents your mouth from opening very far and tends to distort your speech. Speaking fast and "mumbling" usually go hand in hand. The fact is, it takes time for your jaw to open. When you speak with a sense of relaxed openness around your jaw, you won’t need to worry about speaking too quickly.

If you speak too quickly, you’re not harnessing the power of your whole voice. Resonance is largely connected to vowel sounds, and it’s something you can feel. Speaking quickly shortens vowel sounds, so resonance suffers. Your voice becomes shallow and one-dimensional. Developing vocal resonance automatically slows you down. You actually begin to enjoy the feeling of sound vibrating throughout your body, like a massage!

If you speak too quickly, you may need to pay more attention to your listeners. As a quick-thinking individual, it might be difficult to articulate thoughts as quickly as they occur in your head. You become focused on the content of your speech, and less focused on your audience. Be attentive to your listeners, committed to delivering the message effectively, and you will instinctively find the right pace.

Mastering your speech rate takes time. Learning to breathe, relax your jaw, discover resonance and shift your focus won’t happen overnight. But if you practice these basics, you will enjoy the benefits of relaxed and confident speech patterns. You will transform your ability to communicate well.

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