Have you been told to slow down when you’re presenting?

There’s only one legitimate reason for slowing down. That’s if you go so fast that your words get blurred. Otherwise there’s nothing wrong with speaking fast. Watch this video of Gary Vaynerchuk – would you want him to slow down?

This is the way Gary speaks. He’s being himself.

If you’re a naturally fast speaker and you try and slow yourself down, you won’t be being yourself. It will be an effort for you and you’re unlikely to come across as natural and conversational. Speak the way you normally would in a conversation.

There’s just one difference. In a conversation, you pause to let the other person respond. But in a presentation,  you’re the only one talking. So there’s one thing you have to add in – pauses. Gary is in control of his speed. He can pause when he wants to.

Why are the pauses useful?

  1. The audience can process what you’ve said
  2. It gives you time to think about what you’re going to say next.

But, there’s one problem with pausing – it’s  difficult to remember to do it. Presentation coaches sometimes advise that you mark up a script with where you want to pause, or advise you to count during the pause. That’s difficult when you’re in the heat of presenting, and it’s unlikely to have you talking in a natural conversational manner. So forget thinking about pausing.

Instead think chunking.

Chunking is talking in chunks of words. Tony Blair is a great demonstrator of chunking. Watch this video and note that he speaks fast but in small chunks with silence in between the chunks:

Try out chunking by reading something out loud. Copy Tony Blair’s rhythm. Then try it out in normal conversation. It will feel odd to begin with – that’s normal when you try something new. Once you’ve go the hang of it, use it the next time you present. You’ll be able to speak at your normal speed, which means you’ll be your natural and energetic self. And you’ll also give yourself time to think, and your audience time to process.


Credit: My partner and gifted presentation coach, Tony Burns, came up with the concept of chunking.

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