Vary your tempo for a dynamic, resonant presentation

There’s a musicality to a successful talk, and savvy speakers act as maestros, using rests and crescendos, to deliver a theme.

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Tempo is “the pace or speed at which a section of music is played,” according to “We can think of the tempo as the speedometer of the music.”

I think of tempo a lot during our presentation training sessions, but I tend to think of it most when a speaker is showing (or discussing) many examples.

Let’s say the speaker is discussing an important photography exhibition and wants to show 15 different works. Too often, the speaker will establish a baseline tempo and keep to it throughout the talk.

Typically, they’ll show an image, give the photo’s backstory for a couple of minutes, then show the next photo, talk for a couple of minutes, and continue using the same tempo for the duration.

When charted, their talk might look something like this:

OPEN (3 minutes)

EXAMPLE ONE (2 minutes)

EXAMPLE TWO (2 minutes)

EXAMPLE THREE (2 minutes)

EXAMPLE FOUR (2 minutes)

CLOSE (3 minutes)

The risk with that pattern is that it becomes predictable. The tempo becomes its own sort of monotone, one that offers no surprises to the audience.

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