Posted by: George E Burney | March 4, 2013

Slow Down and Just Converse

My facebook photo If you glanced at an article and saw right off that the first paragraph filled an entire page, would you want to read it? Why not? Because reading it seems difficult. There are no breaks. Without them, our minds start looking for an exit.

Give Them a Break!

That’s how an audience reacts when we speak too fast. The information seems overwhelming, since they cannot process it without breaks. Much of it is wasted, like water poured into a glass which is already full. In written material, paragraphs are used to provide breaks by separating thoughts. When speaking, pauses are used.

Briefly pausing between thoughts allows the audience to “get it,” to lock a thought into their minds before we ask them to consider another. Without pauses, we’re like the bricklayer in a hurry who doesn’t apply mortar between the bricks. When he’s finished, he doesn’t have a wall. He has a pile of bricks!

Cover Less and Converse More

Taking our time and using appropriate pausing also makes our discourse seem more like an ordinary conversation. That’s good, because it puts our audience at ease, and it does the same for us. Rushing through a speech breathlessly makes everyone tense.

Speaking too fast often springs from trying to cover too much material. It would be better to cover less material, and cover it well, than to speed through more details than the audience can handle in one discussion.  Allow time to explain, provide examples, or illustrate your most important ideas. Eliminate less important points.

Nervousness or tension could make you speak faster than you should. Perhaps you’re anxious to finish quickly. If so, you may defeat your purpose in speaking. Slow down, focus on conversing with the individuals before you, and the crisis will pass.

Divide and Conquer

One helpful practice when rehearsing is to divide your presentation into segments. How much should you have covered after 5 minutes? After 10 minutes? Place timing marks on your outline. After 15 or 20 minutes, where should you be? By marking your outline, you’ll know whether you’re ahead, running behind, or right on schedule.

If you’re running behind, don’t speak faster. Just cut out whatever can be dispensed with without distorting the ideas you want to cover. That way, you can take your time and calmly present your material as if you’re just conversing with friends. That’s what you want, right?


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