I just caught the tale end of an interview on NPR with Michael Tilson Thomas, music director for the San Francisco Symphony, talking about the audition process for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. I tuned in to the interview just as he was talking about how musicians tend to speed up when they are nervous. My guess is that as music director an important aspect of his work is to help nervous musicians slow down.
This was so interesting to me because it reminded me that speeding up when anxious is a universal problem, not just one that speakers have. If there’s one principle I return to in every conversation I have with clients, it’s that if they simply slow down, it will make all the difference in their speaking. And, I’m not talking about speaking slowly. We can speak quickly but still have an internal awareness that is slow and easy.
It seems that when we deliberately decide to slow down and take our time, we actually send a signal to our nervous system that there’s no need to feel anxious. Which, in turn, helps the nervous system calm down, and we begin to have a sense of internal quiet and clarity.
On a video recording I did several years ago, The Seven Crown Jewels of Public Speaking Presence, there’s a five minute talk on slowing down and how important it is for a speaker.