Do You Speed Up When You Get Nervous? (Here's How to Stop)

Are you a speedy talker? 

Me too. 

I've always had a pretty peppy cadence to my speech, and spending the past 10 years in NYC has only made me sound more caffeinated. 

Normally this isn't problem... unless I get nervous.

And unfortunately, even public speaking coaches occasionally get nervous when speaking in public. 

This used to be a big problem for me. 

If I forgot to take a couple minutes to meditate before a presentation, my normal trot of a speech pattern would quickly turn into a frantic gallop. 

Suddenly, I'd be flying through slidestripping over words, and, worst of all, losing my audience

I was in denial about this for a while. 

I thought, "So, I talk fast. What's the big deal? People like an energetic presentation!"

And that's partly true.

People do like an energetic presentation... but only if they can understand it. 

I was forced to fully embrace this idea one spring when I almost drove off the side of a mountain.

(Maybe I should back up...)

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a dear friend's hometown in the mountains of Georgia. 

My friend Mia, who grew up navigating the windy mountain roads, would safely zip up and down the mountain well above the speed limit.

She would groan when we got caught behind a car making those hairpin turns at a cautious 20 MPH. 

"Must be a tourist," she'd say.

She could always tell. The locals never drove that slow, even at night.  

This was all well and good until one afternoon, when we needed to take separate cars to get somewhere. 

(You can probably see where this story is going...)

Mia drove ahead, and I followed in the car behind her. 

As I attempted to follow Mia down the mountain, one thing became immediately clear: 

I was not a local. 

I didn't know the terrain.

I didn't know where the road was unexpectedly going to wind.

And if I tried to drive at Mia's speed, I was going to drive straight off the mountain. 

I eased off the gas.

Mia, noticing that she was losing me, slowed down and mercifully began driving like a tourist. 

We both made it to our destination safely. 

This experience finally hit home for me why it's so important to slow down when giving a presentation (especially when you're making turns). 

You, as the presenter, already know the content. 

You know the terrain.

You know the places in the presentation where you'll be shifting in a different direction.

Your audience doesn't.  

They don't know where you're going to turn, so if you don't slow down, you will lose them. 

Knowing this, how can you create speed bumps for yourself in order to ensure that you and your audience both make it safely to your destination? 

Well, there are a few words you can listen for in your presentation that may as well be giant yellow "YIELD" signs. 

Three big ones are: "but" "however" and "yet".

Whenever you hear one of those three conjunctions come out of your mouth, that is a signal to sloooooooooow it down. 

Why? 

Those words all signal a change of direction

If you slow down around those words in particular, your audience is much more likely to follow you around the curve. 

Once you've safely made it out onto the open highway, feel free to put your foot back on the gas! 

There's nothing wrong with being a fast talker.

As long as you and your audience make it to your destination safely, I say, "Enjoy the ride."


Photograph of Sara Glancy on stairs

Sara Glancy is an NYC-based actor and public speaking coach and the founder of Speak Masterfully, a service that helps professionals take the stage with less fear and more fun! 

Want to nail your next presentation?!  

Apply this basic outline to any speaking engagement to feel twice as prepared in half the time

Download your free copy of "Mesmerize, Don't Memorize" here!

Photo by Jessica Osber.

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