Rapid Speak is a Liability

Posted By on December 5, 2011

Rapid Speak” gets a lot of people in trouble. What is rapid speak? Speaking uncomfortably fast for the listener.

A number of years ago, FedEx ran a famous, amusing commercial that illustrates the tension produced by rapid speak.

For some, rapid speech is their natural speed.

For others, it’s a by product of anxiety.

And for some, it’s a way of compensating for being less prepared or being unsure of the content of their remarks.

It is never good when speaking to a group. Your friend or colleague may find it invigorating but in a group there will be more who find it annoying, exhausting, overwhelming or ineffective. You will undermine your “command” of the room and almost certainly reduce the content people can remember from your remarks.

So where do you start?


Record yourself and listen to the recording. Identify new or different opportunities to slow down, add pauses for emphasis or cut content. Use whatever recording device you carry with you – Smartphone, small handheld video cam, or Smartpen. All you need is the audio.

Use the audio recording when trying the following exercises:

Set a 10% goal

Consciously slow down your normal speech by 10-15%. Before you answer the phone, greet someone, or respond to or ask a question deliberately slow your speech just a little bit. This exercise will help you to be conscious of your rate of speech and slow down your delivery. The more you practice, the more control you will have over your rate of speech.

Mirror a friend

Find a friend who speaks at a normal or somewhat slow pace. Have you both read, simultaneously, the first few sentences of your remarks.  Your job is to match your pace to your partner’s. You’ll be amazed at how hard it actually is!

Place the Pause

Before your next presentation or meeting, identify specific places in your presentation where you will pause.  And practice those pauses. For example, insert a brief pause at the end of a sentence. Pause prior to making your important point as it will serve to emphasize your important point. Listen to the recording and adjust the location of your pause reminders to create the greatest impact.

Go short

Practice delivering prepared remarks at a slower-than-usual pace. Time your delivery. If you find your remarks are too long to cover in the allotted time at the new, slower pace, cut down your content. Less information delivered at a digestible pace will be more effective than more information delivered at record speed.

Remember, speaking for impact is not an  accident. It’s a skill. Follow these tips to sharpen your presentation skills and public speaking skills.

Share your thoughts

Then let me know how things changed by making a comment on this post. What was the impact of slowing down?

  1. Dropped by due to a tweet from @lkhere Great tips here on how to slow down. I haven’t tried the exercise of reading alongside someone with a slower pace, but it seems like a great one. I’ll have to try that one for sure.

    I think the tip on recording yourself is also important as it really is difficult to know how fast you’re speaking unless you’re able to listen to yourself afterwards. Thanks for taking the time to write the post. Will share it on Twitter.

    • judy says:

      Michael, let me know if you try the exercises. Our readers will appreciate hearing about your personal experience. Thanks, too, for tweeting about the post and for letting me know @ikere was your referral source.

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