5 Techniques to Pace Your Speech Successfully
Updated: Nov 17
Speaking too quickly is one of the most common speech problems—perhaps because almost all of us tend to speed up our speech when we’re stressed or excited. As a public speaker, pacing your speeches can be one of your greatest tools. It is very important to know when to get the audience fired up and when to slow things down.
Speech rate is the term given to the speed at which you speak. It's calculated in the number of words spoken in a minute. A normal number of words per minute (wpm) can vary hugely, depending on the geographical location, subject matter of the speech, gender of the speaker and many more factors.
Here are some tips for pacing and slowing down your speeches in order to communicate effectively with your audience.
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1. Plan pauses into your sentences
Musicians keep time with their toes—inside their shoes. You won’t see them tapping their feet, but they flex and pulse their toes in time under the shoe leather.
Do that when you need to pause as a physical reminder to slow down. This is especially effective if you don’t have notes and can’t write down reminders in your speech to pause. All you need to remember are mental cues, like three beats in between sentences, and let your foot keep track. Speak according to the beat, and you should find yourself slowing down while speaking.
2. Listen to good speakers
Listen to speakers that you admire. They could be radio presenters, TV hosts or anybody accustomed to speaking in public. Note the different rates of speech they use over the course of their presentation and how effective they are in capturing the audience’s attention. Then, try and experiment with the different rates of speeches. Find what suits the content of your speech the most.
3. Adjust your speech according to the audience
Bear in mind that different audiences may require different rates of speech. You would not deliver a speech to a group of schoolchildren in the same way as you deliver a speech to university students. Adjust the rate of your speech accordingly. In general, you would probably want to speak at a slower rate when talking to kids and elderly people. When talking to youths and adults, it is preferable to use different rates while speaking.
4. Watch out for lists
When you’re delivering a list in your speech—particularly when you know its contents by heart—you may rush through it without giving your audience time to comprehend each item.
Insert longer pauses between the items in a list, like this: “When we decided to raise more money, we recruited new members with experience [pause/pause/pause], put our other plans on hold [pause/pause/pause], and focused on cultivating new prospects.”
5. Enunciate clearly
What is enunciation? It is the act of pronouncing words clearly and distinctly. Focusing on our enunciation when we speak is one good way to slow down our speech. When we focus on enunciating clearly, we force ourselves to stop slurring and leaving out syllables when we speak. For example, dropping “g”s is one of the most common examples of poor enunciation (e.g. going, jogging, walking). Focus on not leaving out the g’s (go-ing, not go-in!).
Pacing your speeches is important in order to deliver your message clearly to your audience. It takes time in order to pace your speeches accordingly. Don’t give up and try to practice with your friends and family. Ask for constructive criticism and improve on them!
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