The danger of speaking too fast is enumerated in dozens of online blogs in the public speaking world. Simon Sinek instructs public speakers to “speak unusually slowly”, but Susan Berkley instructs people to speak at “240 Words Per Minute”, the pace of an auctioneer. Carmine Gallo plumps for a more modest “160 Words Per Minute”.
But what do these mathematical terms really mean? How can I, without a tape recorder and an afternoon to spare, really understand how fast I speak?
Try asking some of your friends, or even using an online app like VoiceCheck. You may even know yourself that you speak a little too fast or too slow. But whichever end of the scale you fall on, this exercise from Rebecca and David Carey will help to speed you up or slow you down.
Elocution Lessons London: The Exercise
The exercise is a simple meditative one which you can do alone or just before a public speaking presentation.
“Begin either sitting or standing, and notice how you are breathing and feeling. Start to rock gently from side to side. Establish an easy rhythm to this movement. How does it make you feel? Play with the tempo of your rocking – you could make it quicker or slower. Does this change how you feel? Does it change how you think? What happens if you change the scale of your rocking by making the movement larger or smaller?
“Bring the side-to-side motion to an end and notice how you are breathing. Now start to rock backwards and forwards. Again, establish an easy rhythm to this movement. How does it make you feel? Play with the tempo of your rocking by making it quicker or slower. Does this change how you feel? Does it change how you think? What happens if you change the scale of your rocking by making the movement larger or smaller? After a short while, come to a rest. How are you breathing and feeling? Has your heartbeat altered at all?”
This classic exercise is found in David and Rebecca Carey’s book The Verbal Arts Workbook.
Elocution Lessons London: What Does The Exercise Do?
The last question in the text is perhaps the most important – changing your heartbeat. By changing your body’s natural rhythm, you will be able to influence how it feels natural for you to speak. People who tend to operate at breakneck speed tend to speak quickly. People with slower rhythms tend to speak slowly. Notice where you lie on this scale, and try adjusting your speech accordingly. Remember – if it feels weird, you’re probably getting it right. Try stretching yourself and seeing where you end up.