The way you express your thoughts tells a lot about you. If you speak quickly, it’s likely you’re either rushed, potentially overwhelmed or not confident that what you say has value.
On the flip side, if you speak slowly and confidently, you’re probably in a position of authority and a source of expertise, and you know your statements have value.
The way you speak influences what people think about you — and, in turn, how successful you are. The best way to understand the impact is to record yourself and listen to the playback, then compare what you heard with the speaking style of someone you admire.
Another way to understand how people perceive you from what you say is to read a transcription of something you said, like during a meeting, and see if you can make sense of your statement.
In media, the best presentations, and even the best creative copywriting, is delivered in a slower, more confident tone. You never hear voiceover work being rushed, and you never see someone blazing through a Ted Talk, trying to get to the end.
The listener can process the information better when its delivered slowly. It also allows the speaker to deliver a clearer message without the fillers of “um,” “yeah,” “you know” and other commonly used interruptions. These words provide no value in a presentation, but they are natural when a speaker is speaking too quickly and the brain can’t keep up with their intended message.
The best presenters don’t feel the need to fill those empty spaces. They understand that those spaces are there to let your words breathe, and to allow your listener to process what you just said. They are not awkward. They are necessary.
I bring this up because we are moving toward a world where voice is becoming more important, and the way we speak is quickly becoming the primary means of interaction -- not only with other people, but with machines. Poor grammar, useless fillers, broken language and mumbling make it harder to get your point across or to get an action to be undertaken.
My kids are a great example of this. They talk to Alexa all the time in their rooms, and they get upset when the response is dead air. Alexa doesn’t respond to mumbling or half thoughts very well. Inadvertently, my children are being taught the value of clear enunciation, clear messaging and speaking at a moderate pace. The byproduct of all this voice-driven AI is that my kids are becoming better communicators.
Speaking is a journey — and as with most journeys, we tend to focus on the destination. You focus on what you want to happen or getting your point across quickly, but you should take a breath (literally) and focus on what is going on right now.
If you take the steps to improve your delivery, you are also radically improving the experience of the listener on the other end. Whether it’s in a room of a thousand people, or a room of two (including you), the outcome is a better experience for everyone and more likelihood that your message will land.
Who knew talking to devices could have such a positive impact on the way we speak?