This is tip #3 as part of a series of posts on becoming a better presenter, based primarily on my past mistakes. I don't know about you, but when I get in front of a group of people I'm pumped and excited, I can't wait to jump right in. That energy is great for passion, but can also be a problem, talking too fast. This is bad. First it is hard for people to absorb all of the great information you are trying to communicate, over time they simply tune you out. Second, not everyone in the audience may be a native speaker, especially when you are presenting in a foreign country. Third, and one you may not expect, but even when people are native speakers of your language they may not understand your accent. This really hit home for me when I was presenting in Dublin several years ago. Since most people learn English as their first language in Ireland I did not even think to slow down. However once I began the conference organizer kept waving her hands at me, telling me to slow down as no one could understand my mid-west American accent. As such, I like to follow these lessons learned.
- Speak slower then you think you should. When it starts becoming almost painful you are probably at the right pace. Keep the energy, just talk slower.
- Pause after key points or key slides. This dramatic effect not only really helps enforce your point, but gives people time to really let it sink in. You will be surprised at the presenting power of silence, try it. This is something I'm still working hard at.
- Yes, I know you have alot of great content, and yes I know its hard to cram it all in 30 or 60 minutes. But instead of talking faster, take time to review the slides and eliminate content. Creating presentations with lots of slides is simple, creating a high impact presentation with few slides is hard. People are lazy, that is why you get so much death by powerpoint. My rule of thumb is shoot for 1 slide for every two minutes of talking (30 slides for 60 minute talk).
- Be sure to include time for questions, either during the presentation or at the end.