Finding balance in a speech – Public speaking contradictions

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I recently worked with an individual that had a bad case of ‘hereiswhatIhavetosayImgoingtosayitandgetmymessageacrosstoyoureallyquicklyandthenIamgoingtositdownagain’.

By this I mean he spoke too fast when delivering a speech. His audience could not understand him and as a result they disengaged and did not receive the message that he was trying to pass to them.

At first I thought that this individual was nervous when speaking and this was why he spoke so quickly. However, I soon discovered that this speaker had been told in the past that he spoke too slowly.

Speaking quickly was simply his reaction to some constructive feedback he had been given previously!

Which of course led to me being asked: ‘How can I win if some people think I speak too slowly and others think that I speak too quickly?’

Public speaking is full of contradictions.

Speak too slowly and your audience disengage. Speak too quickly and they cannot receive your message.

Be over confident and you come across as arrogant, show nerves and your audience loses faith in you.

Don’t pause and your words lose impact, pause for too long and your audience thinks you have forgotten your lines.

So what’s the answer?

The answer is balance, and using the right tools and tactics at the right time in your speech. For example, speaking faster when you are describing, a tense, fluid situation, such as a car chase, but slow your words down when describing your emotions at a funeral.

You cannot fix a door with just a hammer, in the same way that you cannot deliver a speech by just using one speaking technique, or without any pauses. The trick is finding the right combination and balance of tools to get the job done.

Use all of your public speaking toolbox!

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

One response on “Finding balance in a speech – Public speaking contradictions

  1. Neil

    Hi Rich, I strongly agree, and like your point that there is no one method of delivery. In fact, varying your delivery stands you the best chance of engaging more of your audience for longer.

    A tool often overlooked by speakers is the Pause. Whatever your pace, you don’t need to fill the time with constant speech. Give your throat and your audiences ears a rest and just be quiet for a moment. It buys you time to compose yourself and gives the audience a chance to digest what they’re hearing.

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