In our public speaking skills workshops, we frequently ask how many of you have been told that you talk too fast? Usually about three out of every four people raise their hand and go, “yep that’s me talk too fast. Done it my whole life.” But when I disagree with them, I get some raised eyebrows, but my disagreement is in what they mean by talking too fast. Because it’s not how fast the speaker is speaking, it’s how fast the listener is listening. Turns out the brain can process in listening anywhere from two to five times faster than it can create speech. There’s always more capacity to listen than there is to speak when it comes to speed. Which means your listeners have extra time on their hands to listen to your talk. You don’t talk too fast. As long your diction and your pronunciation are good.
And there’s fluency in language that you’re speaking in. They can understand your speech. Even when you accelerate it. Don’t believe me, let me prove it. You still understood every word didn’t you. But the issue is not whether you understood words, but whether you’re able to capture thoughts. For the speaker, the more important issue is the issue of thoughts going to your audience, not the words. How the listener digest those thoughts is in chunks. The technique then is to put some space between your thoughts. The simple solution is to learn to stop, honor the comma, put space in for a period. Let silence have its way. This isn’t easy, but with practice, you can talk as fast as you want, but by creating space between your thoughts, the listener will have no trouble digesting them, filing them, organizing them, or even ignoring them. But it’s easy to listen to. I still talk extremely fast, but I’ve practiced stopping. And even in that half second pause or less, it’s amazing what the listener’s brain can do. Every comma, every period, every time. It’s enough for the listener to understand. Talk too fast. The answer is stop, not slow.
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As a high-stakes communications expert, Alan motivates individuals and teams to build their confidence and professionalism and trains them to seamlessly handle the unexpected in ANY communications setting.
Alan is an International Keynote Speaker, Coach, Trainer, and Author who has delivered keynotes and training workshops to thousands on the impact of powerful, persuasive communication. Alan is the Executive Director and Principal Trainer of MillsWyck Communications. He is the author of Presentation Sin: The Practical Guide to Stop Offending (and Start Impressing) Your Audience and the co-author of Silver Goldfish: Loud & Clear: The 10 Keys to Delivering Memorable Business Presentations.
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