I’ve been asked a few times recently about how many words one should write if they want to speak for 5, 10, 15 minutes.
There is no straight answer to this.
Head to tools like Wikipedia and it will tell you figures around the 150 words per minute mark. However, there are actually a lot of different factors that will influence how many words you need to write for each minute that you plan to speak. These include:
- Pauses – what is the structure of your speech and how many pauses will there be?
- Nerves – if you’re more nervous, you’ll speak more quickly (generally!)
- Tone – if the speech has a negative or positive vibe, your pace of speaking will change
- Personality – how do you speak naturally – faster or slower than the average person?
- Memory – will you remember everything you’ve written when actually delivering your speech – or will you even add bits in as you go?
The best solution I’ve found is to take your favourite work of fiction from your book case and read it aloud, with appropriate intonation and pauses.
After a minute, stop the clock and count how many words you’ve read. Voila.
It’s not a perfect science, but can give you a very good idea of your natural speaking pace, rhythm and how many words you require per minute.
NB. It’s not always about speaking for the allotted time – if you can convey your message perfectly in two minutes, why waste your audience’s time doing it in five minutes?
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