Ask the Experts

Q: My ADHD Brain Moves Too Fast for Public Speaking

You know the material backward and forward, but when you stand before an audience to speak about it, your words come out jumbled or halted. Your expertise doesn’t shine through your public speaking. Here is how to communicate more clearly and confidently.

Q: “I’m a 54-year-old professional woman recently diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD). My problem is that, in my current role, I must give demonstrations and talks to many other professionals. Many are accomplished speakers. Though I know the material well, I stumble over my words and seem hesitant when I am speaking. The words arrive in my brain much faster than I can speak them. This comes across in a negative way to those I am addressing. It is interpreted as a lack of competence or a knowledge deficit. I have been trying to learn as much as possible about public speaking. What else can I try?” – 54RZProf


Hi 54RZProf:

I am so grateful to be able to help you with this! I do a large amount of public speaking and have learned some tips and tools along the way. But before we dive in, I want to assure you that ALL speakers – even the truly great ones who are super rehearsed – stumble from time to time. Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect speech, just ones that provide value and relevant content to the listeners!

Rule #1: Slow down.

When we are nervous or want to get all our information out, we tend to speed up our speech. We think that spitting it all out is the way to remember everything we want to say. It’s actually the opposite. When we slow our words down, our speech will naturally catch up to our brain.

[Click to Read: Open Mouth, Insert Foot]

Rule #2: Pause.

Try pausing after every six or so words. Seriously! It may feel uncomfortable and very unnatural at first, but pausing gives you a chance to regroup and gives your audience a chance to “catch up.” Remember they need time to process your information as they are hearing it for the first time!

Rule #3: Build in Q & A throughout.

This is my favorite way to give a talk. Why? Because as I am sure you can understand, it is quite difficult for most individuals (especially those with ADHD) to listen and stay focused for a great length of time. We start to fade and tune out. In addition, if an audience member has a question at the beginning of your talk, it can be quite hard for them to hold on to that question until the talk is over. It becomes distracting to them. So having natural breaks in your talk gives your audience a chance to get immediate clarification, refocus, and reenergize — and it gives your brain a much-needed break.

Rule #4: Make your talk interactive!

Ask questions of your participants, give them activities to do in groups or pairs, have them fill out handouts (guided notes) as you go, call audience members up to the front to help you demonstrate your content. And the list goes on and on! There are many ways to impart knowledge and information. Standing up at the front of a room and speaking is just one of many options. Get your creative juices flowing and mix it up!

Good luck!

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Updated on March 22, 2020

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