Is it Possible to Speak too Slow while Presenting?

One of the biggest concerns of my executive presentation training clients in New York City is pacing.  “How fast should I speak” is a question I get a lot.  I tend to think you cannot speak too slow while presenting.  Adrenaline is a powerful substance, and it tends to take over a speech.  Without awareness, it’s all too easy to rush.  But there are those that think speaking too slow is a legitimate problem while presenting.  Let’s compare two TED talks, and analyze their rate of speech, starting with Laura Galante’s speech on Russian hacking:

I think Laura’s pacing is good.  She takes a clear pause at the end of each thought, and highlights important words with her intonation.  By taking her time, she makes complex material clear.

Now let’s check out Bendetta Berti’s TED talk from 2016:

Interesting comparison on a number of fronts.  I would say she is speaking much too fast, especially toward the middle of the speech.  Occasionally, she will take a break at the end of each thought group to allow her thoughts to land, but in general, she is rushing through ideas and concepts.  The problem is made worse by the fact that she is mispronouncing some important words, and dropping the “th” sound entirely.

I did my best to find an example of a TED-talker who was speaking too slowly.  I couldn’t find one.  So I stand by my original premise; you cannot speak too slow while presenting.  What do you think?  Comment below or tweet me your thoughts.

5 thoughts on “Is it Possible to Speak too Slow while Presenting?

  1. deliberate, and with pauses between ideas is simply good form, especially for complex topics. Too slow is when it is painful to listen waiting for the next word. TED talkers don’t do that

  2. Yes, it is possible to speak too slow when presenting.
    I think the key point here is how long the slow pace lasts. If the speaker is consistently too slow it becomes a chore for an audience to listen; indeed some will actively switch off listening as they feel the speaker isn’t maintaining energy sufficiently to keep them interested.
    Slowing pace down in order to reinforce a message or allow an audience to absorb is, however, a crucial asset to someone being an effective speaker. Good speakers know how to vary their pace to match the message they’re delivering.
    There is, of course, the added dimension of understanding the preference of an audience. While audiences are typically made up of a cross section of personality types, a speaker should vary their pace to match the different preference of the audience. Some people prefer faster paced more energised speakers; whereas others may have a preference for a slower paced less pushed style of speaking. A good speaker adapts to suit message and audience. If they keep it too slow for too long peoole will switch off. Vary the pace and energy and you’ll keep more people interested for longer.

  3. Chris

    I disagree with you that Bendetta Berti (TED talk from 2016) is speaking much too fast. To me her speed is lively and enhance the issues she is discussing. If one were listening in the car driving, yes, that would be too fast to digest, but live in the auditorium when one’s attention is but focussed, it would make an absorbing talk at that speed.
    Pronunciation is geographic and cultural – sure she’s got a different accent, but her enunciation is sharp and defined. Yes, if we are concerned about accent, then yes, you are correct.

    I stand with you on your premise; you cannot speak too slow while presenting. Neither can you speak too fast – but Bendetta is not an example of that.

  4. Any speech that doesn’t use PowerPoint is off to an excellent start.

  5. I don’t see where eithet one of these presentors is speaking g too slow or too fast.

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