Wednesday, December 2, 2009

week 14: using speed wisely and well

In week 14 of our Step Up Your Speaking program, Stephanie focused on her message once more, and asked a question about the speed with which she's speaking. My video offers some thoughts on using pacing--speaking fast or slow--as a way to emphasize particular points in your presentation or speech, as well as some thoughts on why you might be speaking too fast. (If nervousness is your reason, check out the links below for suggestions to help you focus on that factor.)

I promised Stephanie a list of tools she can use to create emphasis in her speaking delivery. Here are four:
  1. Pacing: Slowing your pace can emphasize a series of words--that might mean a list, your most important points taken together, or the last line of a dramatic story--or an important phrase or conclusion. You can also use it when you're asking questions or raising issues ("Should she take the job....wait for a better offer...or try another route?") during your presentation. Slowing down allows your point to sink in; speeding up increases the energy and your visible enthusiasm. Aim for a balance, but know in advance where, when and why you are varying your speed.
  2. Vocal variety: Changing the tone of your voice, raising it higher or lower, or "punching" particular words to emphasize them (as in "I don't WANT to do this, so I'll WAIT to do it") also can help you call attention to words or phrases, and also helps you keep the audience attention. Check out these vocalizing tips from an NPR intern.
  3. Gestures: Research shows that gestures, in combination with spoken words, can enhance your audience's understanding of what you're putting across in a speech or presentation. As with all these emphasis tools, plan them and use them judiciously.
  4. Messaging tools: The same tools you use to make a message memorable--alliteration, analogy or references to popular culture--also can help you emphasize particular themes or make them easier to recall.

You can combine these different emphasis tools if you really want to put a point across. In Stephanie's message, she uses alliteration to describe three factors in facing fear of public speaking: Focus, frequency and faith. The alliteration is a subtle emphasis, and she can make it stronger by popping each of those words vocally to emphasize them even more; by gesturing; and by slowing down for each keyword.

Related posts: Vocalizing tips from an NPR intern

Speed's one assumption speakers make. Should they speak as they normally do?

Slowing down for enunciation and clarity

See Stephanie's week 12 video delivering her message

For the nervous speaker: When the speaker needs to catch her breath

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