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How Your Speech Rate Varies in Professional Presentations

June 18, 2015 / Blog presentation tips, public speaking, Rick Enrico, SlideGenius, speech rate, speech skills

How does your speech’s speed affect your professional presentations?

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Speech rate is a form of paralanguage that determines how quickly or slowly you speak in words per minute (WPM).

Six Minutes’ Andrew Dlugan gives a few guidelines to calculate this.

First, divide your speech’s total number of words by the total number of minutes you were able to say them. While the average speed is around 125 WPM, know your normal speaking rate to see how it influences your presentation’s success.

While some fast speakers are considered fluent, speed doesn’t indicate effective message delivery. Whether you talk quickly or slowly, you’re still able to convey your pitch’s main idea as long as you speak clearly.

How to Know Your Speaking Rate

Time yourself while practicing your pitch to determine your speech rhythm and adjust your tempo as necessary.

However, rehearsal still differs from the actual performance with a real audience listening to you.

Filming your entire speech lets you time yourself and count your words to figure out your speech rate.

Factors That Influence Your Speaking Rate

While there are reasons for speaking faster or slower, content, diction, tone of voice, body language, and even the audience can affect your talking speed.

  • Upbringing

The speaker’s speed is influenced by culture, family background, mannerisms, and profession.

Each person’s speech rate is based on geographical location and their perception of the world.

  • Anxiety

Nervousness makes your heart race and pushes you to deliver words quickly.

  • Time Limits

There are times when you’re forced to talk quickly as you race to finish your presentation on time.

Avoid this by carefully crafting your content and practicing before the actual performance.

  • Exhaustion

If you’re too tired to give a presentation, you’ll end up speaking slower to conserve your energy.

On the other hand, if you’re so exhausted that you can’t process your thoughts properly, you’ll end up committing mistakes during your speech.

  • Heavy Content

Complex sentences give you time to pause as it slows down your speech rate.

This also gives your audience time to absorb and digest your message.

  • Extra Pauses

Your audience’s responses are chances for you to catch extra pauses. After making your audience laugh, give them time to calm down while digesting your message at the same time.

Distractions aren’t always bad. Sometimes, if there are technical problems or latecomers, their entrance gives you an opportunity to reiterate what you were saying.

How It Varies

Changing your speed from time to time allows you to interact with your audience more naturally and conversationally.

How you do it depends on what emotions and ideas you want to focus on.

If you’re trying to make them laugh, speak faster. If you’re telling inspiring stories, speak slower.

Summing It Up

As a presenter, speaking slowly is more effective than talking too quickly. It gives your audience time to process your message in their minds.

However, there are opportunities where altering your speaking rate can benefit the point you’re trying to get across.

Want to bring high energy and humor to your speech or add drama to an emotional moment?

Know your audience first. Then, decide which approach will work best for the point you’re making.

Need more tips? Our SlideGenius experts are here to help you craft a more effective presentation.

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Be a Presentation Virtuoso with Deliberate Practice.” SlideGenius, Inc. February 26, 2015. Accessed June 18, 2015.
Rate.” Boundless. Accessed June 18, 2015.
What Is the Average Speaking Rate?Six Minutes. Accessed June 18, 2015.