Over the years, I’ve provided more than a dozen speaker coaching sessions at a large association in the Washington DC area. One day, the president called me into his office and said, “You’ve got to work with [X] today. He talks so fast, he actually cuts off members during presentations and conversations – I just can’t take it anymore. He has to change the way he talks, or he’ll be out of a job. Tell him.” That was the entire conversation. I had received my instructions.
Granted, this is an extreme example. But it’s not an uncommon issue. In the 30 years that I’ve been working as a speechwriter and executive coach, the problem of “annoying voices” comes up more than any other problem.
Here’s a question for you:
How fast do you talk? If you talk too fast, you will lose your audiences. If you talk way too fast, you will annoy your audiences as well as lose them. And if you talk too slow, you’ll flat-out bore them.
Start by getting feedback from people you know. Ask helpful colleagues to pay attention to your speed when you give a presentation or moderate a conference call or handle a Q&A.
Continue by getting feedback from anonymous sources. Simply prepare an evaluation form for your next big speech and include a quick question about vocal speed. When people feel anonymous, they are often more candid with their speaker evaluations.
Whatever your vocal issues, resolve to improve them – the sooner, the better.
1. If you talk too fast: Write your speech using shorter sentences. When delivering a long list of items, try writing those items in a column – the list format should slow down your delivery.
2. If you talk too slow: Identify the 10 most important words/phrases/statistics in your speech, and emphasize them. Good emphasis will give you a more energetic pace.
Keep working on your voice. Your career (and your next raise) could depend upon it.
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