One of the most frequently expressed concerns about a person's speech is that she (or he) talks too fast. This can be a real career issue, because your listeners want to understand you the first time.
People talk too fast for several reasons. Mostly, they do it because they are nervous.
They also do it because they feel unprepared or overawed by whom they're speaking to, and quickly blurt out whatever they are thinking (which is often exactly what they shouldn't be saying). Some talk fast because they are afraid others are too busy to listen to them speak at a reasonable rate. A few speak too fast because of a communication disorder, such as cluttering, or even a neurological disorder such as Parkinson's disease.
Here are three tips to help you speak slower. First, think about when you speak fast and to whom. If you speak fast when giving a presentation, remember that it doesn't matter how fast you speak, but how much your audience can understand. If you speak too fast, especially when speaking to senior citizens, people with hearing losses, or children, or when speaking on complex matters that are new for your audience, you need to slow down so they can understand you more easily. A fast rate of speech is more confusing. It has not been shown to be more persuasive, either. If people don't understand, they don't buy.
So, practice your presentation at a slower rate. Record yourself. Decide in advance what you will cut out of your speech if you are running out of time. Try 4 deep breaths before you start, to relax yourself. (Don't breath deeply and repeatedly when driving, though.) Think of yourself as a teacher to your audience, not the next speaking expert.
If you tend to speak quickly because you are overawed by someone, remember he is just a person. He puts his clothes on and eats lunch just like you do. Take some deep breaths if you can before you see him, and visualize yourself succeeding at talking to him.
If others insist you speak fast all the time, although you may doubt this, and your parent (usually your father) speaks very fast as well, you may have a communication impairment called cluttering. It can be helped, but will need expert assistance from a certified speech pathologist with experience in this.
If you have recently begun to speak fast, and can't control your rate, you need to see a physician and have neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and other problems ruled out. A rapid rate of speech may be the first sign of these problems.
After a diagnosis, search for a speech pathologist with expertise in treating this, often through a process called the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment.
Speaking at a normal rate of speech can make such a difference in a person's life.
The time to start is now!
Katie Schwartz, CCC-SLP is the director of Business Speech Improvement (www.BusinessSpeechImprovement.com) in Chattanooga, TN. A certified speech pathologist with special expertise in working with corporate clients, she provides intensive training through open enrollment classes, and individual speech coaching on a variety of issues involving verbal communication.
Ms. Schwartz also offers concise, practical e-books, such as "How to speak slower in six simple steps" ( http://businessspeechimprovement.com/enabler/scripts/category.pl?EBooks ).
Ms. Schwartz is also an adjunct professor and the author of 4 books and numerous e-books on communication.