Q: How can you slow yourself down when you're speaking too fast in a presentation?

A: Being aware of speaking too fast, speaking too slowly, or speaking in a monotone is a great start. You can solve any problem if you can define it.

Before you convince yourself that you're speeding along in your speeches, make sure to consider the source of the feedback that has brought the potential problem to your attention. If six people have told you that you talk too fast, you probably do. If someone who talks slowly or is hard of hearing says you talk too fast, maybe you speak too fast only for that person.

Try tape-recording a conversation with a friend, then tape-record your next speaking presentation, and see if you always speak too fast or only when you're nervous and giving a speech. Perhaps because we typically give a speech to fill the time, you may be talking too fast because you have too much to say.

In addition, your rapid rate of speech may be a result of the fact that you want to get the presentation over with. Instead of focusing on this, I would rather you concentrate on the positive benefits when you do well, such as making the sale, impressing the boss, and getting your proposal or ideas accepted. When you focus on what will happen as a result of doing well, you will invest the time necessary to prepare and present your ideas.

If you do decide that you need to slow down your delivery, the first place to do that is before you even hit the podium. When you're putting together your remarks, think about logical places to slow down. It is OK if you speak fast, so long as you leave room for silence or pauses. The faster you talk, the longer the pause should be for the audience to think, catch up, or digest what has been said. If you say something really profound or are asking something like "Consider the proposal in front of you," you are instructing the audience to think, so you have to give them time to do that.

As an exercise, I would practice reading your speech out loud. Pause for one second at a comma, two seconds at the end of a sentence, and three seconds after a paragraph. This is to develop the habit of pausing in your talk in the right places. Then breathe and smile!

Patricia Fripp is a San Francisco-based executive speech coach and professional speaker on change, teamwork, customer service,promoting business, and communication skills. She isthe author of Make It, So You Don't Have to Fake It and Get What You Want! Fripp also served as president of the National Speakers Association. She can be contacted via e-mail, at 800-634-3035, or through her Web site Fripp.com.

Copyright © 2000 Patricia Fripp