Controlling the speed of your delivery is a powerful tool that the most effective speakers have mastered. Let’s explore how and why…

When utilized correctly, your voice can harness attention and interest, build anticipation, and highlight important content for your audience. However, it can also repel focus or mislead your audience if it’s misused. Understanding the impact your voice has and knowing how to control it will immediately level-up your next presentation or speech.

There are four elements of your voice you can alter to enhance your impact:

1.       Pace – the speed of your speaking

2.       Volume – the loudness of your voice

3.       Stress – the emphasis placed on a particular word or phrase

4.       Intonation & Inflection – the rising or falling pitch of your voice

Let’s take the first step in mastering your voice and examine speaking Pace.

Speaking tendencies

Some people tend to speak more quickly when they’re nervous or excited. Others inadvertently speak more slowly while they’re thinking, or when they’re unsure. Both of these tendencies can produce a negative result. Speaking too quickly for an extended amount of time can signal to your audience that you’re not confident in what you’re saying. While speaking slowly for too long may send the message that you’re unprepared.  

Then there are those speakers who focus on conveying all of their content, rather than their delivery, or their audience. This can lead to a monotone presentation or speech where audience members quickly lose interest and tune out. So, how can you optimize your speaking voice?

Controlling your speed

The short answer is by deliberately varying your pace.

Most people naturally speak at a rate between 120 – 140 words per minute (wpm). I usually refer to this as your baseline speaking rate. You might consider timing yourself at least once or twice to pinpoint your precise baseline. This exercise alone will help you to control your pace.

Once you have a gauge on your baseline speaking rate, you can intentionally slow down your speaking to highlight critical information, or speed up your speaking to build excitement and enthusiasm.

The best speakers fluctuate their rate of speaking throughout their delivery to maximize audience reception and interest. The periodic changes in speaking pace subconsciously call for your audience members’ attention.

Enhance your next presentation by using your baseline rate as your default speaking pace, then adjusting it during targeted sections for effect.