Hone Your Skills

Should You Talk Faster or Slower in Meetings? Avoid These Verbal Speed Traps!

February 23, 2022
3 Min Read

Are you concerned about the speed at which you speak in your meetings? Are you a slow, methodical speaker? Or are you bursting with energy and can’t get your words out fast enough? Well, to be on the far end on either side of the spectrum isn’t ideal. 

While all of one, or all of the other isn’t recommended, speaking at various speeds will actually make your comments and presentations more interesting and highlight what you hope to highlight (if used correctly). Let’s take a look at some best practices when it comes to the speed of your speech!

Beware of "Verbal Speed Traps"

There are several ways to talk at a speed that’s just right. However, verbal speed traps are out to get you! A verbal speed trap is any situation in which you tend to speak at an inappropriate pace (either too fast or too slow). Here are some common "speed traps" you may encounter in a typical meeting.

  • Becoming nervous during a presentation. Nerves make different people do different things, one of which is either speaking too fast or too slow. 
  • Colleagues who agree with you or are fascinated by your ideas, and therefore listen to you without interrupting, prompting you to continue at your current pace or even look for a faster gear.
  • Topic changes may become disorienting unless they're accompanied by a change in pace that signals “We’re on to something new now."
  • Latecomers whose arrival prompts someone else to quickly summarize the conversation so far.
  • Being surprised by the time. Maybe you thought your presentation would last a lot longer than it is so you try to speak slowly to fill up time. Or maybe, you’re running out of time and trying to get through all the material by speaking at the speed of light. 

Awareness of these traps will help ensure that you don’t fall victim to them, and your listeners stay engaged and get more from what you have to say.

When to Talk Slower

Slowing down is often the key to being heard and understood. Speak too quickly and you’re likely to be seen as nervous, rushed, or inexperienced. But how do you know when you need to slow down? Here are five common situations in which slowing your speech will help you make a connection with your listener.

  • Presenting. You don’t want people in the audience raising their hands saying things like “I didn’t quite catch that last part of what you said—could you please repeat it?” It can also be embarrassing when people ask, “What did he say?” or “Can someone tell me what she just said?”
  • Small-group meetings. When there are four or five people at a meeting, everyone gets an opportunity to speak—but these thoughts will hold the most value only if each person speaks slowly enough for everyone else to understand him or her.
  • One-on-one conversations. If you talk too fast during a one-on-one conversation and the other person doesn't understand something, they may not feel comfortable interrupting you to clarify or repeat what they missed. That could pose a problem for both of you later on—or as soon as your conversation's over!

When to Talk Faster

When is it appropriate to speed up your rate of speech? Generally, you can talk faster when you're talking to someone you know. When it comes to the company of friends and family, we often speak more rapidly. 

We do this for a couple reasons: first, because we feel comfortable with these people and second, because these are people who already know us quite well—so in their minds, they may have already figured out what it is that we want to say. In this situation, it's okay to speak more rapidly. You'll be able to convey what you mean more quickly and effectively when you do so. Just make sure not to run your words together!

It’s also normal and appropriate to speak faster when you're passionate about something. Let's face it—sometimes the things we really care about just can't wait! Whether it's a new product or service that you think will take your business to the next level or a new initiative at work that has the potential for great success; having passion about certain topics can make us feel excited and eager—and our speech patterns reflect this excitement.

While speaking at an accelerated rate isn't recommended all of the time, doing so in situations where you're particularly excited can actually add enthusiasm—which could help keep listeners engaged if they happen to be feeling less enthusiastic themselves.

How Do You Know When It's Time To Slow Down Or Speed Up Your Speech?

If you want to know when it's time to slow down or speed up your speech, ask yourself:

  • Am I getting my point across?
  • Is the audience staying with me, or am I losing them?
  • Does my audience seem bored? Do they tune out at certain points in my presentation?
  • When I’m speaking more slowly or quickly, do people seem more willing to listen and engage me?

It’s also important to note that we often think we speak in a given way when we actually don’t. For example, if you think you speak quickly and people complain that your pace is too fast all the time, then it's time to slow down. But if you don't think your speech pattern is an issue, chances are it isn't.

Poised

A fool-proof way to know if you’re speaking too fast or too slow is to use Poised. Poised is an AI communication coach that will help you live during your meetings! Poised is compatible with Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and more. Just install it, and in the right-hand corner you will get real-time feedback about your pace and how you can improve. 

After observing a few meetings, Poised will also create a custom plan for any improvements you need to make. Never wonder if you’re speaking too fast or too slow again, sign up for Poised today

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