Come on. Speed it Up!

Speak faster?
Imagine that you are presenting to a group. You are speaking at a moderate pace because you want to be understood. You are using pauses because you learned 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 temped to speak faster. Don’t do that. That is not what they meant.

Most likely, what they are really saying is, “I get it. I’m with you. What’s the next step?  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? How do we solve 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 speak. It was a conference about humor, which suggests that people were there because they already understood the need for humor.

Yet the presenter wasted the first half of the 60-minute 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. He was like the sales presenter who insists on plodding through his presentation even after the client agrees to buy.

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 slowly 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.

“Speed it up” indicates that your audience is interested in the topic and wants to get to the destination faster.


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