With all of the energy drinks sold these days, and a Starbucks on every corner, it’s hard to believe we have people who actually speak slowly walking among us. Well, I first want to celebrate them! In a day when we move faster than ever (except in rush hour!) let us realize the value of the person who actually takes the time to think about what they are about to say. The use of the thoughtful pause is a lost art, and we need to value those who still take the time.
Having said that, it is possible to get too much of a good thing – and it is that question which I will spend the rest of our time for this Monthly Memo. The fact is you can speak too slowly in conversation, in front of an audience or to the media. (With the media you can actually use it to your advantage – more on that in a moment.)
For most who speak slowly, it is a matter of being very selective about what is said. This person is often quite bright, and values the strength of each word – which is a good thing. The problem, of course, is the rest of us are waiting and waiting – feeling a mounting sense of frustration as the words trickle out. “Come on,” we’re screaming inside, “Get to the point!”
The point is actually the biggest problem for many slow talkers. They have a tendency to take the long way around to get to their point – and that only makes things worse.
One of the best ways to help a plodding speaker is to emphasize message discipline because when someone knows where they are going, they tend to move a little faster. The slow talker works more quickly when they have practiced and know the message cold. Also, a camera often helps a slow talker because inside their head they are speaking at a fine pace – until they see themselves and are shocked! As you offer feedback for such a person, try first getting them to pick up the pace in sections instead of trying to get them to completely change their comfortable approach altogether.
Finally, if you have a famously slow, but still valuable speaker in your meeting or program, be mindful where you put them in the speaking order. Never schedule them right after lunch. Instead, squeeze them in between a couple of fast talkers and people will be happy for the break!
And with the news media? Well, they are always moving fast, so there is little room for a slow talker, which presents its own opportunity! Let’s say you are hoping to keep a low profile but the media insists on asking for an interview? Put your slowest talker out there and the reporters will walk away with little if anything they can use!