Majora Carter gives an impassioned, brilliant speech in the video above, taken from TED in 2006. There’s a number of things she does very, very right from a public speaking perspective. What’s most impressive is the way she uses personal stories to illustrate larger social problems; her family’s migration story became a basis for stats and facts about redlining and economic injustice in the South Bronx, the story of her childhood neighbourhood’s tragic downfall and her brother’s death is used to contrast her experience with her largely white audience, and to point out economic inequality.
But, alas, Mrs Carter falls prey to the same problem that bedevils many TED talkers; she speaks much, much too fast. Facts and figures rush by the audience in a blur. I would guess that is because she is trying to cram a 45-minute speech into her 20-minute time allotment. She would benefit greatly from pairing her speech down and breathing at the end of each thought. A recent study found that pausing 5x in a one-minute speech makes your material more memorable. So take your time! If you are a quick talker, try using a metronome to control the rate at which you speak.
Did you know that over 20% of English speakers can’t pronounce the words “espresso” or “prescription”? In my executive presentation coaching business in New York City and New Jersey, I am often stunned at how frequently seasoned presenters mispronounced words. So how can you avoid this? The problem is solved by engaging your articulators more; your lips, your tongue, your lower jaw and your soft palate. Try watching this video and take my tongue twister challenge! Post your results here.
Did you know there is science behind speaking slowly? Researchers from the University of Michigan analyzed the phone calls of telemarketers and found that people who paused frequently during their pitch were more persuasive than callers who spoke uninterrupted. The researchers say people typically pause about five times a minute. This speech pattern sounds more believable to listeners than when you spit out words without any breaks.
Nighat Dad’s speech above is a good example of the power of pausing. She gives a passionate, intelligent speech, with a very powerful premise. But occasionally she rushes, and when she does, her words come out in a nervous jumble, and she has trouble with syntax and grammar. Her speech is markedly better when she pauses at the end of each thought.