Great leaders are great listeners but they are also articulate.
Like a duck that looks calmer on the surface but paddle frantically below in the water, great leaders tend to look and talk slower but are faster thinkers.
Nelson Mandela takes his time before he answers a question.
He talks slower and nicely paced during conversations, it has nothing to do with his old age, it has more to do with maturity and delivery of thought.
I realise that controlling your pace of speech is a major key to becoming a more credible, interesting and confident speaker.
Here is why:
1. Speaking slower increases your perceived seniority
Think about the ancient times. The servant running around and speaks really fast. The King does not move, takes his time.
This is so ingrained in us that I see ridiculous jumps in how credible someone comes across when all they’ve done is slow their rate of speech a bit. Suddenly they seem more knowledgeable, more trustworthy, and more senior. I know you don’t believe me, but it is one of those things.
2. Speaking slower makes you more interesting
Your listeners have never heard your presentation before. They need time to digest what you are saying. When you slow down, you stop them having to work so hard.
If you want to be understood, you must talk not at your rate of comfort, but at their rate of comprehension.
3. Speaking slower helps you be more in control
Sometimes speaking to a group can feel like heading downhill on a bicycle. It is all happening so fast that your only concern is not wiping out and landing on your lips. This is the result of speaking too fast.
If you speak faster than you can think, you are in danger of running out of thoughts whilst your mouth is still moving.
If you speak slowly enough, you have enough time to think, and so you can change tack easier if you need to. The whole thing becomes calmer.
4. Speaking slower helps you on the global stage
If you are speaking a language that is not your native tongue, or if you are speaking to people in a language that is not THEIR native tongue, you have got to speak slower.
It reduces the effect of your accent and allows you to choose words more carefully. In fact, it is noticeable in how more fluent you are and also how fluent you seem.
5. Speaking slower is linked to being calmer
This is a slightly strange one. If you are speaking slower, that means that you are probably controlling your adrenalin levels somewhat.
Also, just the act of focusing on lowering your rate of speech can have a positive effect on your nerves. So, win-win, really.
6. Speaking slower allows you to change other things about your presentation style
Once you have started speaking slower, you will find that it is much easier to adjust other things about your style as a presenter.
If you want to try things out around structure, story-telling, energy level, interaction, humour, slides… you will find it all so much more do-able if you are in control of your pace.
In all, slowing your pace [and thinking in-depth about the people you are talking to] is the key that unlocks everything else.