Even the greatest speakers face this problem –knowing when to shut up. Perhaps not the most gentle statement, but one that deserves some credence.
Think of it as an uphill battle. The more you talk, the higher the chance of your audience zoning out. Each word is built upon a previous one; start on a boring note and their attention span is further decreased. Even with the most convincing and engaging statements, there lies a threshold after which people slowly start getting distracted.
Talking faster doesn’t help either. It may help with speeches that rely on momentum, but if no one can keep up with you, they aren’t.
Persuasion: A Race with Words
Why We Talk Too Much?
1) We lose track
It may feel like a minute to you, but to everyone else it might as well be an hour. Sometimes, our perceptions of time are skewered. To those speaking, it feels exhilarating and thrilling (or at least sometimes) and thus it feels short. To those listening, in their minds they would rather be at home watching aliens on the “History” Channel. Thus, it feels longer than in reality.
2) We are unprepared
Ramblers beware. To put it in simple terms, if we don’t know what to say, but have to say something, we say rubbish. It’s somewhat like our natural defense mechanism when caught unprepared. A host of “uhhms” and “errrs” cover a swathe of meaningless things we say so we can feel that we are “saying something.”
3) We over-explain
Explaining things in detail isn’t a bad thing. However, you have to tailor suit your substance to fit your audience. Casual listeners aren’t willing to digest a barrage of information, but a focused and keen audience may have a higher threshold.
Getting Over It
1) Time what you say
Well, this isn’t going to work for regular conversations. It just isn’t realistic (though it might be amusing). Rather, when making formal presentations, keep a stopwatch handy, or have a similar method of keeping track. Have a target time for your presentation. Upon reaching it, start wrapping up. Having set milestones in your presentation can also help balance out your distribution of time for each part of your substance.
This may sound slightly mechanical, but there really isn’t any other way to identify if you’re getting carried away except to examine the weird faces your audience gives you when you ramble.
2) Know what to say
This sounds too obvious to be included, but many have problems with knowing exactly what they have to prove or convey. Sometimes, we have an overly-general idea in our head on what to talk about; when we expand that idea all goes haywire and we spiral out of control. Compartmentalizing ideas and breaking them into smaller portions can help identify specific objectives in your conversations and speeches.
3) Know when to stop
It can be tempting to impart every single idea in your mind to your audience. Skip it. Condense what you have to say to fit your audience and leave out irrelevant tidbits.
The race with words is an odd one. You don’t win it by running faster; you win it by knowing when to pull out.