People are in such a rush these days that some barely pause, even between words.
Situation #1: I met with a software director about a seminar I was scheduled to give his staff. He spoke so fast his words fell on top of each other and I could barely understand what he was saying.
If those you’re communicating with can’t comprehend what you’re saying because of your speaking pace, they won’t do what you want or avoid doing what you don’t want. I asked Mr. InARush some clarifying questions, hoping that I’d catch some additional information even if his clarifications were just as speedy as his original points. Several times, I asked him to repeat what he’d said. I think he saw me as the problem: I wasn’t listening fast enough.
Situation #2: I attended a presentation by a fellow who spoke so fast that I felt out of breath trying to keep up. Mr. FasterFaster was providing useful information and I wanted to take it in, but I couldn’t. Every now and then, I heard a sentence that seemed especially important, but by the time I absorbed it, he was four sentences ahead, and I’d missed the intervening three.
During the break, the meeting moderator asked him to slow down so that we could benefit from his presentation. After the break, he said he’d been asked to speak more slowly. He said he would. And he did. For about three minutes. Then he resumed his catch-me-if-you-can pace.
It’s sometimes said people attribute greater intelligence to those who speak quickly. And there’s something to that. It's maddening to listen to someone who speaks so s-l-o-w that you wonder if you’ll grow old and die before the end of the next sentence. Still, there's fast and way too fast.
The thing is that most people who speak too fast don’t do it deliberately. They just don’t realize how they sound. So as you speak, it can be helpful to listen to yourself and ask yourself: How is my pace? Am I speaking too fast? Too slow? Should I vary my pace?
When I’m in a country in which English is a second or third language, I have no trouble remembering to slow down. So when I speak to a group in the US, I pretend I’m in a faraway country and that helps me pay more attention to my pace. Try it yourself if you like.