We all know what speeding can do on the road. Speed can kill. But speeding also can kill your speech. There are many reasons why people speak fast when they are presenting. They worry that what they have to say is not important or is boring. They have been told that they have to cut down their speech, so they speed it up to get everything in. Or, they are so afraid to speak that they just want to rush and get it over with.
My Speech is Dull
Some presenters lament about having to give boring stats. If the presenter is bored, the audience will be too. As Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or think you can’t you’re right!” If the presenter thinks his speech is boring, it will be! A good idea is to start with a story. Since we were kids we all like to hear a story. Now this takes a bit of creativity for the speaker, but I guarantee the audience will be engaged right off the bat.
What, I have less time?
I have been to so many speeches, and given them myself, when I prepared for a certain length of time only to be told when I got to the event that my speech would have to be shortened. It is a big mistake to tell this to the audience. The show must go on and what the audience doesn’t know won’t hurt them. By telling the audience, they are already on guard worried about what you will say. And it is disastrous if you think you can just speed up your speech to fit everything in. Hopefully you have practiced your speech out loud, so that it will be easy for you to cut it down.
Find your passion
Last spring I went to hear Gil Penalosa of 8 80 Cities speak about building successful cities and healthy communities. I can’t remember much of what he said but I do remember how he made me feel. He was so passionate about his speech and made me think about our city in a different way. Find your passion in the speech. Yes, even if it is a year end report! Why is it important for the audience to hear what you are going to say?
Get me outta here!
Many presenters are so fearful that they just want to say their speech and get it over with. So, they rattle through. To that I say, give us the handout and let us go home! You have been asked to speak. And unless you are speaking to a Junior high audience who, from my experience having a couple of sons, hate you the minute you step on the stage, the audience wants you to succeed. They want to hear what you have to say. Approximately 48 hours after hearing a speech we retain about 10% of the information. The audience may not remember what you said, but they will remember the feeling you gave them. This is the first time the audience hears your speech, give them the time to register what you have to say. Think of reading a story to a child or in my case, an elderly person who refuses to wear hearing aids! Take the time to land your thoughts. That gives you time to settle into your speech and breathe and gives the audience time to register what you are saying.
Breathe, Breathe, Breathe!
When we read the newspaper, or a story online, the period at the end of the sentence is there for a reason. It is there to inform us that the thought has ended. Often speakers neglect the poor period and barrel through. Take the time to breathe when there is a period. Again, it gives the audience time to register what you have said.
This is fun!
Enjoy your speech. Think of it as an opportunity to give your expertise. Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes says “When I was on the line for my 5,000 metre race, nerves and all, I would take a deep breath and say to myself, seven minutes, seven minutes and it’s over. What are you going to do with the next seven minutes? And that was pretty much it. That put me in the mindset that this has a beginning and an end. The in between is up to me. Back to the realization that it was an opportunity, not a chore.”