Talking Fast + Saying A Lot ≠ Happy Audiences

The Write Words
4 min readJul 18, 2022

You’ve likely heard a speaker say “We don’t have a lot of time, so I’m going to talk really fast.” However, no one benefits from this tactic. Here’s what to do instead.

Photo by Abdul A on Unsplash

I get it. You have a lot to cover, and you’re limited on time. You feel as though you would do your listeners a disservice if you leave out anything, but at the same time, you want to be respectful of the agenda and try your very best to finish on time.

Here’s the deal: You’re actually doing your listeners a disservice by trying to squeeze in everything because when you do that, you have them drinking from a firehose. They end up drowning in information as opposed to soaking it all in. You’re essentially throwing things at them with the mindset of “Let’s see what sticks.”

We speak at a rate of about 140 to 180 words per minute, and on average, a listener’s comprehension rate is approximately 400 words per minute. You may think, “Bridgett, you’re not helping your argument with these numbers.”

Work with me here.

I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again: Remember that 100% of your audience is never listening at 100% capacity 100% of the time.

While we process information at a faster rate than a person can speak, tests of listening comprehension show the average person listens at only 25% efficiency. So the bottom line is this: While we hear what’s being said, we’re not full listening to and processing what is being said. During the course of a one-hour presentation, our listening and comprehension is at 100% for only about 15 of those 60 minutes! When you present ideas that may very well be new to your audience or if the ideas are not new but your perspective on them is new, listening and comprehension slow down.

And speeding up your rate of speech only exacerbates matters. That 25% in efficiency is definitely on track to take a dip.

Here’s what to do instead.

First, choose only three to five pieces…