Almost everybody speaks too quickly when delivering a presentation, and when nerves kick in a lot of us slip into a jabbering overdrive.
Here are four ways to keep yourself steady:
- Write a reminder directly into your script or notes. A visual reminder popping up from time to time is helpful. Even the best of us need a cue; President Eisenhower was notorious for rambling on, so his handlers had a special plate attached to his lectern that would light up and demand: GET OFF NOW. In comparison, writing “SLOW DOWN’ on page 3 of your script is not such an imposition.
- Breathe more deeply and more often. Breath control is essential to magnifying voice power but taking regular deep breaths calms you and effortlessly slows your pace because you can’t talk and breathe at the same time.
- Insert pauses. Pauses offer the dual benefit of adding drama and slowing down fast-talk.
- Time yourself reading from a script and observe what your word-per-minute rate is so you will have a consistent measure to shoot for. I like to keep my rate for audiobooks, online narration, and most public speaking at about 150 words per minute. Your mileage may vary depending on the circumstances, but 150 is a good starting point. Hitting it is easier than it sounds: When you rehearse, simply set your smartphone timer for a minute, count 150 words into your presentation, mark that spot, and read. If you finish before hitting the marker, slow down. If you drag on much longer than the marker, chug a couple cups of coffee and rev up. Keep practicing to hit the target and after a few sessions that rhythm will be imprinted in your neurons and you will be able to summon it naturally.