Communication 101

How To Optimize Speaking Time and Improve Communication

August 24, 2022
5 min read

If you’re planning a presentation or speech, one of the first considerations is how much content you will communicate to your audience. Obviously, the number of words you present will depend on how long you have to speak and the expectations of your peers.

For example, are you giving a 20-minute speech on a new business process? Are you preparing a simple 10-minute speech for your next team meeting, or do you have a stricter time limit?

The faster you speak, the more words you’ll need to prepare. Conversely, speaking at a slower pace will require you to prepare fewer words. It’s also important to balance talking too quickly and slowly; otherwise, you’ll make it difficult for your listeners to engage with your message.

Below, Poised explains how to optimize your speaking time for more impactful communication. 

7 Questions To Ask Yourself About Speaking Time and Communication

You may be planning to speak at your next video meeting for any number of reasons. Perhaps you're required to make a presentation, or your boss has specifically asked you to share your ideas with the team. However, there are also advantages to speaking up in the workplace if your boss does not require you to.

Before diving into the details of optimizing your speaking time, it's essential to understand the importance of refining your communication skills. For example, neglecting to share your suggestion, observation, idea, or even criticism when it can help your team reach its goals means you are ultimately holding your peers back. 

Many professionals fail to speak up because they're afraid of disturbing the status quo or making a mistake, but staying silent is not always the wisest choice. Never speaking up can harm your ability to build rapport and collaborate with others — raise your voice and boost your career. 

With that said, it's not enough to simply resolve that you will make your ideas known to others. You must strategize your message, make the necessary preparations, and deliver your ideas in a way that engages listeners

Much of that comes down to your speed of speech, body language, word choice, tone of voice, and many other factors. The ultimate desired outcome is to make the most of your speaking time and move your team's mission forward.

Answering these seven questions will help you do just that:

1. Am I Talking Too Fast?

It's tempting to believe that speaking quickly will make you sound more competent than speaking too slowly. Not so — talking too quickly can minimize your impact, but it can create confusion and potential misunderstandings. 

For one, fast talking can create a negative impression. We all know of the negative connotations of sounding "salesy," which can influence your listeners whether you're actually trying to sell something or simply convince them of your message. 

Rapid speech can also cause your audience to miss out on a well-prepared and beautifully crafted message. Perhaps the worst consequence is that it can make you come across as aggressive, impatient, or unempathetic; you may convey that you're just trying to get your presentation over with.

Since nervous or uneasy people often speak too quickly. As such, it can make you appear unconfident, incompetent, or like you don't really believe what you're saying. Plus, it's nearly impossible to clearly enunciate and articulate your message when you're talking too fast, potentially leading to misunderstandings.

It's critical to breathe at a healthy pace during presentations, which isn't possible with a high speaking rate. If you have a habit of talking too quickly, remember to take pauses throughout your presentation, and consider using a communication coach and pacing device. You might benefit from using a time calculator to estimate the appropriate word count for your presentation.

The average speaking speed is roughly 280 words for a 2-minute speech, 420 words for a 3-minute speech, 700 words for a 5-minute speech, 2,000 words for a 15-minute speech, etc. Keep in mind that your reading speed may be faster or slower than your speech rate. To figure out the actual amount of time you need, record yourself speaking out loud. 

2. What Is My Body Language Saying?

Your body language will significantly influence the success or failure of your presentation. If you are comfortable, relaxed, and confident while speaking, your listeners will be more likely to believe in your competence and trust your message.

There are two sides to consider regarding body language during a public speaking presentation. Along with honing your own non-verbal communication, you'll need to consider your audience's body language.

It's essential to be able to read and gauge the reactions of your listeners in real-time. You’ll want to know whether you're engaging them or need to ramp things up (or cool them down).

Be mindful of the facial expressions you use; ensure they match the content you're delivering. Maintain good eye contact with your listeners because it will help you connect on a personal level. Don't shy away from using hand gestures as you make your key points and emphasize the most critical ideas of your message.

Moreover, make sure your body posture isn't conveying negative vibes. Instead of slouching or crossing your arms, try to hold yourself up straight. An open posture projects confidence and open-mindedness.

3. Am I an Active Listener?

Active listening should be a top priority whether you're a business leader or an employee. In many respects, it's just as critical as being able to speak effectively.

We all want to feel valued and for our audience to engage in our message. If you show genuine interest in what your team members are saying during meetings, it will quickly build rapport, and people will want to listen to you.

During your next meeting, intentionally slow down and deepen your breathing, which will help you relax and concentrate on the speaker's message. Set your agenda to the side, constantly remind yourself to listen, and establish good eye contact with the speaker.

A warm gaze, a nod, and other non-verbal cues can also show engagement. When it's your turn to speak, think of how you can directly acknowledge your team members' ideas in your message.

4. Am I Talking Too Much?

Speaking too quickly isn't the only way to talk too much in team meetings. If you regularly interrupt other speakers or generally have a hard time not expressing your opinion, chances are you speak too often, and it's holding your team back.

Dominating the conversation causes rapport to weaken and harms the speaker’s reputation as a competent and thoughtful communicator. If you focus on actively listening and prepare well-paced presentations, people will naturally listen to you. You'll have a platform to deliver your message with impact.

5. Are There Words I Should Eliminate From My Vocabulary?

Cluttering your presentation with filler words is a quick way to distract your listeners and render them disengaged. Communicators are prone to fillers when they're nervous, unprepared, or unconfident. If you use too many meaningless words in your presentation, that's how you will appear to the audience. 

Consider eliminating these words and phrases from your vocabulary:

  • Just
  • Oh
  • So
  • Basically
  • Needless to say
  • In my humble opinion
  • Very
  • Really
  • Totally
  • Believe me
  • I mean
  • You know

You may not be able to cut out fillers altogether. In fact, sometimes filler words can be good. Overall, reducing filler words will significantly improve your communication and put you in the league of other effective public speakers.

6. Is My Tone Too Casual or Formal?

Reading the room is critical when you're presenting or listening to others. The ultimate goal is to establish a unique tone that engages your audience. If your tone is too formal or informal for the specific work environment, it will come across as awkward. This could possibly hinder your team members from engaging in the intended message. 

Consider who is in the meeting, how your team typically communicates, and how you can deliver your content respectfully, entertaining, and informatively.

7. Am I Using Humor Well?

Employing humor is one of the most impactful ways to entertain and engage listeners. It can also help you make a meaningful connection with your team members — but it must be well-placed. 

Similar to your overall tone, read the room when working humor into your presentation. And be mindful not to offend your audience.

Use Poised To Transform Your Video Calls

There are many factors to consider when communicating effectively in virtual meetings and presentations. You must maintain a steady speaking pace, use the right body language, actively listen, and employ the appropriate tone, among other things. 

Keep the tips above in mind as you prepare for your next video call. And remember to use the communication tools at your disposal. Poised will give you real-time pointers on how to improve many communication metrics and show you long-term trends of your performance. You’ll notice a significant boon to your virtual communication in no time!


When To Speak Up at Work: A Review of Employee Voice and Silence Behavior Using a Prospect Approach | Taylor & Francis Online

How Do Interpersonal Skills Influence a Business Culture? | Investopedia

Perceiving Active Listening Activates the Reward System and Improves the Impression of Relevant Experiences | National Library of Medicine

Speaking Rate | Baruch College

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