Come on. Speed it Up!

What does that really mean?
Imagine that you are speaking to a group. You are speaking slowly because you want to be understood. You are using pauses because you learned that that is an effective way to create drama in your presentation.

You think that you are doing well with your presentation. Then someone says, “Hey! Can you speed this up?” And you notice a few other people nodding their heads in agreement.

You might feel tempted to speak faster. Don’t do that. That is not what that person was asking for.

Most likely, what they are really saying is, “I get it. I’m with you. Now explain to me how to do this. Let’s move on”.

A normal flow to a presentation is to first explain the background, the issues and the goal. Then you might talk about the history of your organization. Perhaps you are trying to bring every uninformed person up to speed before you address the point of your presentation.

So if one or a few people say, “Let’s speed it up” what they really mean is “Yeah, we know that. What do you suggest? Or how do we do this?”

They are not saying “speak faster”. They are saying, “leave some of this boring stuff out”.

I experienced this frustration when I attended a workshop on the topic of humor. The speaker was a qualified humor writer. I was there to learn “how” to be funnier when I spoke. Yet he wasted the first half of the session explaining “why” humor was important to a presentation. I put my hand up and asked him to speed it up – when what I really meant was “Skip the crap. We already know that it's important. Start talking about how to do it”.

Unfortunately he ignored my request and his time ran out before he got to the "how to". I was disappointed with this presentation because he didn’t appreciate what his audience really wanted.

When your audience pleads with you to speed it up, what they might really mean is:

  • We are past that stage – move on
  • You’re speaking fluff – say something more meaningful
  • Your words haven’t challenged me yet – when will you get to something interesting?
Speed it up really means that you need to better engage and challenge the thinking of your audience. It does not mean to speak faster.

By the way, I tend to speak slower than many speakers and I use the pause more effectively than most. Other speakers have commented favorably to me about both these techniques and no one has asked me to “speed it up”.


Speed it up does not mean - speak faster. It means you need to say more meaningful things. Say things that make your audience think. They are challenging you to make them think.



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Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives
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