When to Adjust Your Speed in Innovative Presentations

By Ray Anthony, Barbara Boyd

Varying your volume, rate, pitch, and tone in your innovative presentation makes you sound more natural and more interesting. Here are some tips to help you use the appropriate rate of speech.

When to slow down in innovative presentations

A slower pace can help in these situations:

  • At the beginning of your presentation. Rather than rushing into your presentation, start slowly. If you have some stage fright, speaking slowly helps, and it makes you come across poised, calm, and composed.

  • When your audience isn’t familiar with your material. Especially if the information you’re presenting is technical, complex, statistical in nature, or has abstract concepts, going slowly helps your audience keep up with you. A slower pace helps with words and complicated terms you’re introducing for the first time and those that may be hard to pronounce.

    For example, a presenter may want to speak more slowly while discussing an acronym: “Great strides have been made in the last two years with laser technology for medicine, science, construction, and other applications. As you may know, laser is an acronym that stands for light … amplification by … stimulated … emission of … radiation.” (Speaking the acronym slowly lets the meaning and definition sink in.)

  • To add vocal punch when you want to highlight key ideas, main messages, or vital pieces of information. Slowing down lets significant points sink in for your group.

    To add weight, use a louder volume and a two-to-three second pause before and after those points. Then, speed your rate up as you add details and filler information to illustrate, give examples, or otherwise describe the essential parts of your presentation.

  • When declaring your call to action. When you’re requesting donations from the audience, asking to close a sale, or seeing specific support or commitment, you don’t want to appear rushed, nervous, or hesitant, which a sudden burst of faster talking may imply.

When to accelerate in innovative presentations

Picking up the pace is appropriate at these points:

  • To show extra enthusiasm, excitement, or emotion or as a suspenseful buildup to a secret.

  • When you go over necessary but familiar background material, provide additional details, or do several quick summaries throughout your presentation.

  • To change transitions in your content, as a segue to a quicker pace of talking.

  • During certain parts of an interesting story you tell to make a point. A good storyteller, like a stage performer, uses the ebbs and tides of vocal variety to guide the energy flow of the tale up and down to make stories captivating and impacting.

Even though you vary your speech rate between slower and faster, avoid speaking hiccups (abrupt stops and starts).