I saw John Chambers speak on Nov. 14; he is the former CEO and Chairman of the Board of Cisco.
I had many issues with his presentation, but I will focus on my main objection: the speed at which he spoke.
Yes, he is accomplished and smart. Yes, he has tons of enthusiasm. Yes, he was voted one of the top 10 Best Performing CEO’s by Harvard Business Review.
But, YIKES, he talked way too quickly.
The speed, combined with his West Virginia accent, made it challenging to understand and follow what he was saying.
I brought a guest with me who is from Brazil. Considering that her second language is English, (which describes many people in the San Francisco Bay Area), she struggled to understand him. Ultimately, he lost her and she fell asleep.
When you make your audience work to understand your message, they will eventually tire of straining and tune out.
We were disengaged.
An accent can pose another challenge to being understood. However, if you speak deliberately and slow the pace, you can be confident that you will be clear.