Why you’re speaking so fast in Presentations – and what you can do about it

All Kim wanted to stop going red from the neck up every time she spoke in public.

Deep down, she doubted whether her message was going to land with her audience.  Would they be as convinced as she was in her central premise?

Some of them weren’t from the tech side.  They might not get it.

This is one of the main causes of speaking too fast: she was worried that her content wasn’t hooking the audience.

The uncertainty made her speed up.

As a result, Kim had less time to engage with the audience.


It’s like being trapped on a hamster wheel: difficult to climb down and take it slowly.

With less time to breath deeply, there’s a greater likelihood of looking like a talking beetroot standing in sweat pit.

Getting a grip on your rate of speech is central to honing your presentation skills and there are several techniques that can help you do exactly that.


But why do you have a sudden tendency too speed up your speaking rate in presentations in the first place?


Why you’re speaking too fast:


1. You fear people will interrupt you

That’s down to the fact that you haven’t given them any indication whether they can ask questions. If they can, when will you be inviting them in: at the end or after each section.

You need to state this at the beginning of your presentation to keep them at bay.  Using a simple statement like this can prevent interruptions:

“There’s 10 minutes at the end to answer your questions.”


2. You want to get the presentation over with – quickly

You don’t regard this as your moment to get decisions and influence change. It’s torture.

Until then, you’ll race ahead.

In reality, a presentation is a conversation with one person speaking most of the time.

Make it more interactive from the start: greeting people as they come into the room, using questions at the beginning and sprinkling them throughout will create a more conversational mood.

Tech presentations are very likely to be shared with those who have a varying levels of knowledge about the tech-side.  You’re therefore at risk of losing clusters of your listeners if you don’t know at what level to pitch your content.

Going through your message in a conversational way will boost your communication and confidence, especially with someone who has the same level of specialist knowledge as those in the audience with the least familiarity with the subject matter.

A dummy run such as this also helps to keep on track, allowing you to determine the specific points where you digress and end up waffling.

You’ll know where those points are when you do the practice run thus keeping on track in the real talk will be much easier.

Here’s how to adjust your content to mixed audiences, so you don’t worry about losing them, regardless of how much technical knowledge they may have.


3. Your breathing is so shallow that you’ll run out of breath

Breaths are less deep when you’re nervous. You’ll tend to breath from the upper chest. This is easy to see as it’ll be rising and lowering along with your shoulders. Such breathing fires off adrenalin.

In addition, the muscles around the top of the chest can’t expand as much as those lower down.  This means you pull less air into your lungs and lack the control you’d if you were to use stomach or lower ribs to breath.

You’ll have less petrol to run in your tank.

By practising the diaphragmatic breathing technique, you will take in more breath, overriding the adrenalin kick and being able to go further on each inhalation. This allows a slower pace.


4. You don’t know how long you’ve got to speak

During some workshops when I bring a camera in to film, people will speed up as they suspect I’m going to stop recording.

I’ve seen presenters ask facilitators or someone in the audience for heads up to tell them when they’ve 1 minute left. It’s OK to check on time.

If you’re mindful of your audience’s time, that can only be a good thing.  It’s awkward to get shut down when you’re building your conclusion.

If you’re short of time, it’s better to skip bits out than rush to the end.  The audience has no idea what you’ve omitted anyway!


5. You always speak at this pace

By asking colleagues or friends for honest feedback, you’ll know if your pace is too fast.

In the English language, people speak about 140 words per minute. A fast speaker will get to 170 words per minute, a slow speaker will use around 110 words.

It should take a minute to read from ‘During some workshops’ in the paragraph above down to ‘170 words per minute.’

If it takes longer then you’ll probably need to slow down by drawing out the vowels more as well as increase your use of pause.


6. “I think fast so need to catch up with my thoughts”

Using calming techniques is one way to slow down the mind so it’s not racing ahead.

Allowing yourself time to pause gives you the space to filter your thoughts during presentations, rather than charging ahead with them in a tangle.



Your Actions:

  1. Here’s an exercise to slow you down if fast talking is a habit.  Do it for about two minutes twice a week, and you’d have slowed down your natural speaking rate.
  2. Do this exercise to control nerves instead of them controlling you, if it’s the adrenalin which is pushing your pace.
  3. Although your breathing may be fine, you might feel uncomfortable with pauses.  Do this exercise to increase your confidence with silence.


Ultimately, when you slow down, you let the light in. You have enough time to:

  • filter your thoughts
  • breath and
  • speak with more conviction

and ultimately boost your credibility with increased engagement.

So slooooww it down.


Got a team that needs help with how they speak in public?  Do they need to improve how to steer people and have others get stuff done – whilst retaining rapport?
If you recognise any of these challenges, book a 15 minute free Discovery Call with me, Frankie Kemp.


Photo by zhang kaiyv: https://www.pexels.com/photo/time-lapse-photography-of-brown-concrete-building-842654/


Are there any other particular reasons I’ve missed?  Add them in the comments!



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