Pause . . . to Speak Better

One of the most glaring differences between new young employees and successful executives is strength in communication.  Specifically speaking speed.  It seems the more experienced and successful you become (arguably because of it), the slower your speech.  In contrast, most recent grads talk a mile a minute.

We all know this to be true, though it seems a bit counter-intuitive.  After all, the more confident and knowledgeable you become, the easier it should be to talk quickly.  But studies have shown that the slower you talk, the more effective you are.

I learned this week that the average English speaker talks at a pace of 180 words per minute.  The average news anchor speaks 120 words per minute.  There must be something there, right?

Unless you slow your speech to the point of annoyance, there aren’t any negatives to developing a controlled, reasonably paced delivery.  Here are some of the benefits:

  • You appear more confident
  • Your listener will retain more information
  • You have more time to consider what to say and where to move the dialog
  • You seem more relaxed
  • You give the impression of honesty
  • You seem more mature, since younger people talk notoriously quickly

How can you slow down your speech?  It’s actually pretty easy: practice.  It’s easier with a comfortable topic, so next time you’re explaining your job to a family member, try taking it slow.  You can also talk in front of a mirror–it’s surprisingly effective.  I use a mirror when preparing for important speeches once or twice a year.  Recording yourself works quite well, even if you’re just reading a passage from a text book or magazine.

If you write and deliver speeches, add pauses directly into the text using slashes or ellipses.  This works very well for wedding toasts.  For example:

Welcome, everyone // to the first night // of the rest // of the new couple’s life. // Mike and Leah are clearly // clearly blessed. //

You can pause wherever it makes sense, typically between clauses and sentences.  As perfect example of this, listen to any speech by Barack Obama.

This a very easy skill to work on, and one of the best ways to help you get ahead early in your career.
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