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Speech Rate and the Effect on Listeners May 1, 2009

Posted by lyndastucky in Uncategorized.

Speech rate affects the listener’s perception of the speaker and the relative importance of the message.  Imagine “I Have A Dream” by Martin Luther King spoken at a fast rate.  The length of time that the speech was spoken gave us time to imagine and to process the information.  We wouldn’t process the meaningful  and complex information had it been spoken more quickly.  In fact, we would have lost interest.  The slow rate of speech signaled importance and sent the message that the content should be taken seriously.  

Now if the content is unimportant and spoken too slowly, the listener may become impatient and bored and consequently lose interest, too.  A slow speaker telling a story about a trip to the grocery store or a meeting agenda or something else less important, may find the listener watching and listening with glazed over eyes. 

Humor, and light, frivolous messages are best expressed at a faster rate because we process that information a lot quicker.  When determining the rate of speech you want to use, analyze the content of your message.  No matter what speed you choose, be sure to show enthusiasm through vocal variety and facial expression.



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