Stop Speeding.

Canada_Stop_sign.svgI recently went to an off-Broadway show in previews, presented by one of New York’s better theatre companies.  One of the leads was speaking so fast that you just couldn’t get his words straight.  At certain points in the play his breakneck speed was forcing the other actors to up their pace in order to keep up with him.    Bottom line: the audience lost a number of good lines.

Following the show, one of the people in my party complained to a theatre staff member that it was difficult to follow the dialogue.  Then, another theatre-goer voiced the same concern.  The staff member acknowledged that there was a problem.

Speeding can often be a result of nervousness.  It can also reflect that your mind is jumping ahead of your mouth. Maybe we should issue speeding tickets for people who chatter too fast.

Are you a speeder? If speaking too fast is your problem, imagine a speeding car.  Visualize a “Slow” and “Stop” sign ahead.  Just as with a car, slow down your pace.   It will feel uncomfortable at first.  But once you get used to speaking at a slower pace, you will find that people will follow you with greater ease.  And, best of all, you will be in control of the speed!

Guest Post: Eight top tips to turn you into an impressive public speaker

View of the terraces and house at Bowood in Wiltshire.
View of the terraces and house at Bowood in Wiltshire.
This post, supplied by Bowood Resort in the U.K.,  has a number of useful hints.  However, I don’t agree with their point about not apologizing.  Depending on the audience and situation, it may be okay to let them know you’re nervous, and it may even elicit sympathy.  After all, it’s human to be nervous. 

It’s one of the most common human fears; it has been unanimously voted as one of the biggest fears of all time, up there with flying. But public speaking doesn’t need to be scary.

Here are some tips from Gill Cooper, Hospitality Manager for Bowood Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort, UK. Bowood Estate has been hosting important meetings with some of the nation’s foremost thinkers, opinion leaders and innovators for hundreds of years, in some of the best meeting rooms Swindon and the surrounding countryside has to offer.

  1. Know your material – It sounds silly, but make sure you know what you are talking about. No one likes a liar or a bluffer so ensure all the material you are talking about is true and factually correct. Obviously, a little exaggeration makes a good story but make sure you won’t be found out if you tell a little white lie. Read up on all of your material and make sure you know every fact and figure inside out. After all, knowledge is power.
  2. Practise makes perfect – It goes without saying that practise makes perfect. The more you practise your speech or presentation, the more comfortable you will be with it and the more confident you will feel delivering it.
  3. Get acquainted with the room – Try to arrive at the venue earlier than everyone else, allowing you time to familiarise yourself with the space. Work out where people will be seated; will they be able to hear you from your position? Try and work out the acoustics by talking loudly from different points of the room. This will help you to understand how your audience will hear you.
  4. Chat to the audience – If you arrive at the venue early, try to chat to your audience before your speech when they are milling around. Ask them why they have come to attend the event and what they hope to get out of it. This will help you understand what your audience wants to take away from your speech/presentation.
  5. Relax – Easier said than done, but try and relax. Public speaking is not a life or death situation and should be enjoyed. Remembered, people have come to see you.
  6. Speak slowly – No one wants to listen to someone talking at machine gun fire speed. Slow down. You may feel like you are talking ridiculously slowly, but it will reach your audience at perfect speed.
  7. Don’t apologise – Don’t start your presentation/speech by announcing how nervous or frightened you are. This will make the audience feel uncomfortable and they will then expect a nervous performance from you.
  8. Try and enjoy it – Public speaking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it gets easier with practice. Try and enjoy your experience, remember, the audience are there to see you for a reason!

Personalize Your Presentations

How do you spice up a presentation? Add a personal experience, anecdote, observation or a quote that appeals to you. Then apply it to the situation at hand. This will help capture your audience’s attention and help them identify with you.

Some examples:

  • “Fishing is the biggest participant sport in the world.” So, today I would like your participation as we go fishing for-….
  • “If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?”- Vince Lombardi. Today we would like to tell you why we should win your business.
  • The much loved film, March of the Penguins: “What can we learn from penguins? The importance of a group and working together. The film depicted how penguins huddle in a group, working together to protect themselves from the elements, and promoting the greater good. Like the penguins, teamwork helps promote the greater good.”
  • Studs Terkel said, “Unless there is memory of the past, there is no present.” I’d like to start off with a little history…

Think about anecdotes in your everyday life that you could use in your own speaking. What anecdotes have worked for you?