When’s it OK to speak fast? Secret #11 of star presenters, by Jean-Luc Doumont

Close-up of a racehorse’s mouthWhen you give a presentation or speech, have you ever wondered if you might be speaking too fast? That’s certainly a very common issue. So, statistically, it’s quite likely that sometimes you do talk too quickly when you speak in public.

Why’s speaking quickly a problem? There are 2 reasons:

  • It can make your message harder for people to absorb.
  • It tends to make you sound nervous, which causes people to subconsciously wonder why you feel that way. In turn, that makes them less willing to trust you and your message.

I heard a slightly contrary view about speaking fast

So when I heard a slightly contrary view about speaking fast, I found the new viewpoint refreshing and thought-provoking.

It came from Jean-Luc Doumont, a speaker-coach to academics and scientists, who just this week finished his 1st ever series of lectures in Australia.

Here’s what he said:

“Speaking fast is not a problem –
doing it all the time is the problem!”

Speaking quickly can help you keep your audience interested

He went on to explain that speaking quickly can help you keep your audience interested in what you’re saying (provided you speak clearly so your audience can easily understand you). That’s for 2 reasons, in that speaking quickly can help you to:

  • Convey passion for your topic, which is contagious.
  • Draw attention to more difficult or important aspects of your talk – through the contrast you create by slowing down.

Slowing down makes people pay attention – provided you do it selectively. (If you speak slowly too much of the time, you’ll put your audience to sleep!)

Contrast is key in any effective talk

That point about contrast really struck a chord with me, as I believe contrast is key in any effective talk.

So, to reiterate Jean-Luc’s point:

  • Of course, be sure to make yourself easily understood through simple language and speaking clearly.
  • Feel free to speak quickly during less vital and less complex sections.
  • Slow down for each key point, and for harder content that your audience will need more time to absorb. (Not only can you speak more slowly, you can also pause more often and perhaps for longer, and deliberately repeat key points.)

I was thoroughly impressed with what Jean-Luc Doumont had to say. So if you ever get the chance to hear him speak, I highly recommend that you do.

Your turn

What’s your view about speaking fast? Do you agree that it can have benefits?
Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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