One of my biggest podcasting weaknesses, and around presenting in general, is that I speak too fast. Or, at least, if I'm prone to. It's something I'm aware of and have worked a lot over the years to avoid. Going by today's question, it looks like I'm not alone! Here's something that came in from one of our most excellent readers, who I'll name Maureen:
Re: amateurish? Maybe it’s just my voice! Hehe I’m trying to work on pitch and cadence. I’m a fast talker by nature, with a casual chatty vibe, so I need to practice learning how to speak on radio is my guess. Maybe you can recommend a YouTube video instructional or something along those lines on delivery.
As you can tell, I totally understandable Maureen – it's something I, and a whole lot of people struggle with! So, what can we do about it?
Don't Try to Change Yourself Too Much
Let's start with this: don't try to change yourself too much. As soon as you start to mess with your natural style, that's when it begins to sound forced, unnatural, and false to your audience. And, as I'm sure you're aware, that's not the way to grow loyal listeners.
Audiences respond the most to honesty, transparency…. to the real you. And as soon as you start worrying too much about how you speak, you start to erode that.
So, begin here: know that your voice, however it comes out, will appeal to people. I doesn't matter if you're with the majority, shouting I Hate my Voice!. There are plenty of people that won't, that actually really like your voice. Not everyone, by any means, but it'll appeal to your tribe. That means people that think the same way as you do, that have similar values, similar approaches, similar likes and dislikes. So, let that take a bit of the pressure off, in the first place.
And then… we can start to think about little changes that do improve your delivery, without eroding your natural style.
Here's the first step to slowing down. Think about it. There's no rocket science here – just be aware, and think it through.
Record a few episodes, concentrating on relaxing, thinking about your sentences, taking deliberate pauses, deep breath, continue.
Even better, count 3 or 4 seconds, within those pauses, from time to time. Not every time, but every minute or so, when you come to a natural break, stop, pause, count to 3. It'll feel like an eternity, but it honestly wont sound that way on-air. It'll make you sound relaxed, confident and serene.
Pronounce Your First Word or Words
During your pauses, think about relaxing, about slowing down. And importantly, think about pronouncing that first word.
This helps me a lot. I'm prone to rush over the 1st word, and that start a cascade of words that ends in a really fast sentence. But, if I concentrate on really saying that first word in the sentence, out loud, in full, unrushed, it sets the tone for the rest of the sentence. For the rest of the paragraph, and keeps my speed in check.
For example, here's a sentence I said earlier today, and noticed this effect:
“I often think that the best way to grow a podcast is by….”
That, “I often think…” came out, the first time, as ‘Ioffnthin….”. I said it fast, mashing the words together, and ended up rushing through the whole thing. So, I stopped, I paused, and I started again. I pronounced the word I deliberately, left a gap, and the said the word often equally carefully. That set the tone for the thought, and helped me slow down, but still sound like me. It wasn't forced, it was just more thoughtful and relaxed.
I (Sometimes) Speak Too Fast
Often, this comes down to confidence. There's nothing like a bag of nerves to speed up your delivery. We have a series of articles around confidence and hang-ups related to podcasting, such as ‘What if People Don't Like Me?' So, check that out. But, to gain real confidence, nothing beats a lot of practice.
Yea, yea, yea – practice. You hear it constantly – it just takes practice. But, in speaking, it does. It's practice that gives you confidence. You'll get some immediate gains by counting through your pauses, or pronouncing your 1st words, but it'll take a lot of practice before that comes naturally, all the time, without stopping to think.
After a dozen practice recordings, though, you'll find that you can manage to get the speed down just a little, but still sound natural. At that point, you'll only sometimes speak too fast!
Remember, though, fast talking is fine, if that's how you normally sound, and as long as you're legible! As long as people can follow it, then you're all good. Often it's the way the passion comes through!
If you want more help with your podcast, remember you can find our full range of courses in The Podcast Host Academy. There isn't a lesson about speaking fast, I'm afraid, but there are lots around growing your show, around increasing your audio quality, and lots more. Join us!