æHave people ever said to you “Hey slow down, you talk too fast!” Wonder what they are referring to? Being from the Northeast, we hear this comment quite often. When thinking about controlling your communication style, it’s helpful to peel back one more layer and look at what makes up someone’s speed of speaking.
As a Speaker Coach, I break speed into two categories: rate and pace. Rate refers to the speed in which a person puts words together. It literally refers to the amount of words per minute. The average rate of speech in a business presentation will range from 150-180 words per minute. Think about listening to a commercial and often, at the end there is a voice quickly giving you all the fine print details at a rate you can hardly follow. They are speaking at approximately 300 words per minute. Much too fast for the average listener!
The second category of speed, pace, refers to the amount of time the speaker pauses between main ideas. It’s a wonderful tool to focus the listener where you want them to reflect. This is controlled by pausing at the end of a thought, giving the listeners time to hear it, process it, put it in a place in their brain and get ready for the next new information. A good speaker will make use of this and strategically pause for effect during their talk to help the listener focus and even reflect on key points. It’s powerful!
So the next time someone tells you to slow down…. ask yourself are they talking about my rate of words or the pacing of ideas? By controlling both of these, you will help your listeners get the most out of your message.
Monica Murphy is a senior coaching partner with The Speech Improvement Company.