Have you ever recorded yourself speaking? I highly recommend it. During presentations, during meetings with your team, during meetings with your boss, when you’re talking to your family? I never realized how I sounded and how I came across until I started doing this. It’s weird, like really weird. I feel like I’m a part stalker and part master creep. I also HATE the sound of my own voice, but this exercise helped me see how others were hearing me.
When I get nervous, I talk fast (like Nascar fast) and I don’t wait for anyone. I was on the phone with a client that lived down south and I was getting irritated because he talked so incredibly slow. I couldn’t follow along because I was getting so irritated and all I could think about was how irritated I was that he couldn’t manage to talk a little faster. I wanted to scream “speed it up” but then I realized something. Not everyone’s life is moving as fast as mine and some people don’t process things as quickly as I do and guess what… that’s okay.
When you go into a big presentation or discussion, it’s helpful to have written reminders in your notes that you need to slow down and take a second to breathe so everyone else has a second to catch up. Giving your team or the audience time to process makes a huge impact. It allows people to formulate their own thoughts and opinions. It allows them to get on your level. It allows them to come up with questions and ensures that you don’t have to put a follow-up meeting on the calendar to talk about the content that you flew through. Allow your team to move through the discussion with you and give yourself a break.
You’re not trying to sell a car on a radio commercial, you don’t need to get thirty disclaimers out in ten seconds.
If you are like me and have a problem talking fast, here are some tips and tricks:
- Write cues in your notes that say “Slow Down” every few sentences (make sure you don’t read them out loud because that would be embarrassing)
- Create a symbol that means “pause” and add it in where you can naturally take momentary pauses
- Enunciate each word, it feels strange, but it helps
- Try to determine when you speed up. Is it when you get nervous? When you’re upset? When you’re mad? When you’re short on time? Understanding the root issue will help you become more aware of the instances when it might happen.
- You know that feeling when you get done with a speech or presentation and you are out of breath, it’s because you weren’t breathing. Use your pauses to breath
- Read books (or anything is written) out loud when you are alone, this just gives you an opportunity to practice speaking. I wouldn’t recommend reading your shopping list out loud at the grocery store, that’s not what I mean but I guess if it’s the only option you have it could still work
- Know that a three-second pause feels like an eternity to you but to your audience, if feel so minimal
- Record yourself talking as often as you can and listen to the recordings (you don’t have to listen to the whole thing but it’s a good gut check to see where you are at)
- Ask your team to help train you. If they notice you are talking too fast their job is to stop, you and make you slow down. It won’t take long for you to break the habit if you are getting stopped and notified of the problem every time it happens.
I’m not going to pretend like it still doesn’t irritate me when people move or talk slowly but I’ve learned that everyone has their own style and I need to accept that and work with them instead of getting annoyed.