Doyouspeaktoofast? (Do You Speak Too Fast)

You may have a lot you need to say in a very short timeframe, but speak too quickly and those listening may not get the full message and they could end up missing out on crucial information. Make sure that the individuals you're speaking to can understand you clearly, or face the consequences.

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.

About the author

Naomi Karten's picture Naomi Karten

Naomi Karten is a highly experienced speaker and seminar leader who draws from her psychology and IT backgrounds to help organizations improve customer satisfaction, manage change, and strengthen teamwork. She has delivered seminars and keynotes to more than 100,000 people internationally. Naomi's newest books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Her other books and ebooks include Managing Expectations, Communication Gaps and How to Close Them, and How to Survive, Excel and Advance as an Introvert. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions & Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. She is a regular columnist for When not working, Naomi's passion is skiing deep powder. Contact her at or via her Web site,

AgileConnection is one of the growing communities of the TechWell network.

Featuring fresh, insightful stories, is the place to go for what is happening in software development and delivery.  Join the conversation now!