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Harness vocal tempo to add dynamism

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Most business presenters overlook voice tempo. They don’t modulate their speed and wind up missing a golden opportunity to enhance the dynamism of their remarks.

The average speaker covers about 150 words per minute. Fast talkers can approach 250 words a minute, but speeding through a presentation can leave listeners racing to catch up.

To test your tempo, take a 150-word chunk of text and record yourself as you recite it. Note to what extent you veer from the average of about one minute.

Then read the same text at a slower speed. Pause between sentences, and sometimes within long sentences. Stopping for a beat can build drama or clarify complex ideas. It also gives your audience a chance to digest what you’ve said.

Try to read the same text at a faster clip, compressing the pauses between words and sentences. Tape yourself and evaluate how varying speeds affect the impact of your message.

Regardless of your tempo, make sure to breathe evenly. Relaxed breathing helps you enunciate better. Otherwise, you may swallow parts of sentences and sound anxious and choppy.

Research shows that audiences perceive faster talkers as more credible or intelligent. But there’s a downside: Nervous presenters who speed up tend to deaden others’ interest and drive away listeners.  

— Adapted from Speak to Influence, Susan Berkley, Campbell Hall Press.

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