If you do, you’re not alone. And the consequences of your actions are that most audiences will tune out much of whatever you say.
Written and spoken words are not the same
Very few of us speak in the same way as we write. Nor are we programmed to hear (if we could be bothered) many words in a short space of time.
And most of us have been the unfortunate victims of having to endure those who haven’t taken the time to understand the differences between written and spoken words.
If you’re present when someone reads a speech, you probably find yourself paying more attention to how boring the speaker is than anything uttered.
A quick example – I remember being at an event years ago when a prominent politician turned up to announce Government support for a children’s museum. The speech had clearly been written by one of his minions and he duly read it out. After all of a minute into his oration, my then 8 year old son (who happened to be less than 5 feet away from the speaker) turned around to me and said in a voice loud enough for all to hear “Dad, he’s really boring”!
As people tittered and looked around to see if they could spot the parents of this ‘pass-remarkable’ child, three thoughts came into my head:
- OMG, I’m sure everyone will notice that this youngster is the spitting image of yours truly and will start ‘tut-tutting’ me in a second,
- I can’t argue with him, he’s right – your man is insufferably boring, and
- Atta’boy – you tell him!
Don’t write speeches in your head, write them out loud
The moral of the story, apart from avoiding the folly of reading speeches (which typically encourages audiences to believe a speaker has some form of personality bypass), is write your speeches using the following ‘spoken word’ rules:
- Use shorter sentences
- Use less complicated words
- Sound everything out loud, cutting away all unnecessary words
- Listen for rhythm and fluency
Slow down for greater impact
Remember that while it is technically possible to utter 250 words a minute (auctioneers achieve this) and most of us manage to speak between 120 and 160 words a minute in conversations; don’t cram this many words into a speech.
Research shows that unlike when you chat with others in a two-way dialogue, it’s harder to pay attention when passively listening to a speech. That’s hardly surprising, as no one is checking in with your every few seconds to see if you’re following along.
Audiences connect with and recall more of what is said at a presentation when a speaker can slow down to about 80% of normal conversation speed.
What are your experiences?
Share your observations. Let us know what you think.