Pace Yourself

  • November 13, 2019 by Ogewu Agbese, DTM

If you think you’re speaking slowly, you’re speaking normally. If you think you’re speaking normally, you’re speaking too fast. If you think you’re speaking too fast, the audience can’t understand you.

Most speakers deliver their speeches to their audience at a much faster rate than they think.

  • General nervousness – We want to get through our speech as quickly as possible, and one way to do that is to rush through it.
  • Know our material very well – We’ve practiced our speech so many times we already know what you are going to say.
  • Lack of practicing – We are so eager to dump out the information that we rush through each point before we forget what they are.

How do we as speakers improve our pacing? Try these steps below.

  1. Write out your speech and add punctuation to break up phrasing.

For example, read the following two phrases out loud using the punctuation in each:

A woman without her man, is nothing.
A woman, without her, man… is nothing.

Both phrases have the exact same words, but by clever use of punctuation, it gives the same phrase 2 different meanings. As you are writing your speech, use periods (.), ellipses(…), semi-colons(;), colons(:), and CAPITALIZATION to draw your eye to phrases that you would like to change the pacing of or add emphasis to. Don’t worry about using punctuation in a grammatically correct way here. This is for YOUR use in helping to deliver YOUR speech.

  1. Practice giving your written speech normally.

After you’ve written your speech with the punctuation added, practice giving your speech as normal. As you’re practicing your speech, you’ll probably discover that you want to change the way you emphasize certain words or phrases or that you want to add pausing. Feel free to modify your punctuation as you’re practicing your speech.

  1. Edit your speech to an appropriate word count

As mentioned at the outset, we tend to speak too quickly when presenting. How fast is too quickly? As a point of reference, the normal conversational speed is about 150 words per minute. I tend to set my normal speech-giving pace at 120 words per minute. This is especially important when crafting a competition speech in which you want to get your points across, but also want to stay within the allotted time. For a 5 to 7 minute speech, your word count should be 600 to 840 words. If you find that your speech is going too long, it is recommended to consider cutting down on your word count, as opposed to removing pauses emphasizing words.

Practice these steps when writing your next speech. The benefits of a well-paced speech are a more engaged and attentive audience. Your audience is also more likely to walk away with a better understanding and bigger impact of the message from your speech!