Learning How to Control a Fast Rate of Speech

Learning How to Control a Fast Rate of Speech


If You Do Public Speaking, Fast Speech is Exhausting to Process

By Elizabeth Peterson, M.A., CCC-SLP

Excerpt from, How to Speak like a Broadcaster and Lead like a CEO


Talking too quickly is one of the most common behaviors that can discount professional speaking skills and hurts public speaking. Studies show that people who speak too quickly appear cluttered, nervous and unorganized. These are not characteristics that describe leadership or someone who is skilled at public speaking. A fast rate of speech hinders the quality and credibility of your message because listeners are forced to work harder to understand. In addition, an error in pronunciation is more likely to occur because your speech articulators are tripping over one another as they attempt to produce sounds. Speech rate and intonation are two important features that influence credibility, executive presence and leadership. If your rate of speech is too fast, it must be addressed if you have the goal of being a polished public speaker with an enhanced leadership image.

Typical Communication Problems That Occur with a Fast Rate of Speech

  • You are perceived as nervous and less confident.
  • You appear unorganized and not well prepared.
  • It is difficult to arrange your thoughts and ideas while speaking too quickly.
  • You are more likely to use “verbal viruses,” words such as “umm,” “like,” “ya know” or “so,” which discount the quality of your message. This happens because your speech articulators are moving faster than you are formulating your thoughts. Verbal viruses are used to close the “gap” when searching for your words. Speech that contains filler words is ineffective in business communication. I like to call them verbal viruses because they destroy the quality of your message and lower your leadership image.
  • Control over your intonation is lost and replaced with a choppy or monotone rhythm. Articulation errors do occur.
  • You are more likely to mispronounce words or delete specific sounds and syllables that compromise crisp articulation and diction.
  • You create unfortunate communication breakdowns because when speech is too fast and loud, the listener’s brain tunes it out. It is exhausting to listen to uncomfortable speech patterns. This creates the potential for miscommunication, lost opportunity or decreased credibility as a speaker.
  • Polished and well perceived leaders speak with a controlled rate of speech.


When your rate of speech is too fast, listeners have to struggle with processing the information and often have to fill in their own gaps when information is missed, which increases the likelihood of a communication breakdown. This is a detrimental speech habit when presenting valuable information, negotiating or trying to persuade in the business world. Not controlling fast speech will hurt your ability for skilled public speaking. Some of my clients report that they are busy and therefore have to speak quickly. You will not save time by having to repeat yourself. The difference in the amount of time it takes to talk at an appropriate rate from that of a fast rate is minimal. In professional situations, it is important to speak with a controlled speech rate to be perceived as a calm person.


Strategy Training for Controlled Public Speaking

  1. Mastering Intonation: The Speech Stairs Method

You have learned that speaking along the speech stairs delivers a style of melody with improved articulation. If your speech rate still seems too fast, hold the vowel sound longer. Your speech rate will be more controlled and appropriate for professional-speaking situations.

  1. Feel Your Articulators Touch While Talking

You can control your fast rate of speech by feeling your speech articulators make contact with one another. Your articulators are your lips, tongue, jaw and facial muscles. When speaking, feel your lips and jaw move as they touch, as well as your tongue contacting your teeth and jaw. The purpose of this strategy is to help you notice and feel the sensations in your mouth while speaking, and if you cannot do that, you are speaking too fast. Take a moment to feel the contact in your mouth from your different articulators while talking. To demonstrate the amount of sensation that can be noticed, count from one to four and feel what your articulators are doing.

One    Your lips puckered and touched each other.

Two    Your tongue touched the back of your upper teeth.

Three The tip of your tongue moved between your teeth.

Four    Your top teeth touched your lower lip.

The objective is to notice the tactile sensation you feel from your articulators moving. When you are aware of this sensation while speaking, your rate will automatically slow down just enough to make a difference.

  1. Hold the Vowel Sound Longer as You Travel Down the Speech Stairs

When speaking, concentrate on producing every syllable in every word by holding the vowel sounds a little longer. Give yourself the mantra “hold the vowel sound longer” as a way to prompt yourself to use this strategy while you move up and down the speech stairs. When this technique is used, you are more aware of your articulators moving at a controlled rate so they do not trip over one another during connected speech.

  1. Identify Other People’s Speaking Habits

As an exercise to improve your own awareness of your speech rate and melody, identify good speakers and not-so-good speakers. When you can identify traits of other speakers, your awareness of your own speech behavior will be significantly improved. Think of family members, coworkers and friends, and identify those who are fast talkers and those who have polished speaking skills. When you can successfully place specific speech behaviors in other people, your awareness and skills will significantly improve. My clients have commented on how helpful this exercise has been for their awareness.

  1. Match Your Rate with a Good and a Not-So-Good Speaker

When you have an opportunity to speak with someone you feel is a good speech model, match your speaking rate with his or her speed during conversation. You may feel like you are speaking too slowly. You are not! Remember, you are the fast talker and need to slow down. If this new strategy feels funny, you are probably doing it correctly!

On the other side, match your rate with a speaker you know speaks too quickly. You will get a sense of how uncomfortable it is. You will notice strain in your facial muscles and throat and that you are speaking with shallow breaths. I had a client who coined himself “the fastest speaker I ever had to work with.” When he did this exercise, he was committed to changing his speech. After learning the speech stairs, he realized how uncomfortable it was to speak fast, and it was very apparent how unprofessional and unpolished a fast speaking rate can be.

A very important speech note: While practicing these strategies, you may feel like you are speaking too slowly and sounding weird. Don’t worry; you’re not. Remember, your style of talking is too fast. If this new speed and style feel odd, you are doing it correctly. It may feel strange at first because it is a new behavior. Your old behavior of speaking too fast interfered with the quality of your speech and leadership image.

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