Smashing Presentation Myths – Part 1

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Myth One = SPEAK SLOWLY TO IMPROVE A LISTENER’S UNDERSTANDING

One of the most common misunderstandings I find when I coach executives concerns pace – the rate at which ideas are delivered to an audience in order that they can understand and remember what has been said.

I don’t know about you, but the majority of people I meet have been advised at some stage in their lives to slow down their natural rate of speech when they give presentations. This has led to them becoming uninspiring, monotonous and lacking in impact when they speak formally. Even more worrying is when a person has been advised to vary the tone of their voice in order to correct this perceived problem, or perhaps conceal a dialect. The result is usually a very uncomfortable and inauthentic speaker – but crucially, a speaker who is not listened to or remembered.

A natural rhythm of speech has two components; a fast, conversational rate of words and a rate of ideas that allows a listener to think and respond. I find that mainstream advice generally ignores the second component – namely the time a speaker should leave during the delivery of ideas to allow thinking time, and show they are listening to responses. My advice to clients who want to be natural and authentic is invariably to speed up their rate of words – speak as fast as they like, as if you are in a conversation with friends, as long as you make sure you leave gaps to allow reflection and responses. Just look at any inspirational speaker and you will see exactly what I am talking about. They all understand that communication takes place in silence, and in the mind of the listener.

If you want to be more relaxed, natural and authentic when you speak – create a conversational rhythm of speech by speaking at a relaxed fast pace, broken up with clear pauses to allow reflection and response time. This isn’t always easy, because of the effects of adrenaline, but practise it and you will find it much easier. Your listeners will appreciate it too!

For more insight see my previous blog on the 50:50 rule – and my next blog on eye contact – where I will smash another mainstream myth.