Is this something you think about when giving presentations?
If not, you may want to reconsider.
Speaking too fast makes it difficult for people to digest what you’re saying. Speaking too slow may induce boredom or even sleepiness!
What’s the happy medium?
140 words per minute.
That’s how fast the average person talks. If you speak at this rate, most in the audience will have time to take in what you’re saying.
Here are some other considerations.
For those whose first language isn’t English, they’ll especially appreciate that you’re keeping voice speed in mind. It can be difficult to understand a foreign language as well as your native tongue. If you’re giving a speech in English, not speaking too quickly will help non-native English speakers better understand. All the more reason to stay around 140 wpm.
For technical presentations, why not slow it down a bit? Especially if you’re presenting in front of a non-technical audience, it may take them more time to digest what you’re saying. 110-140 wpm should do the trick.
If you have bad news, though, consider speeding it up. Some research suggests that speaking quickly when conveying bad news is the way to go precisely because audience members will not have enough time to process what you’re saying and to come up with counter points. So am I saying that, if you’re laying people off, up the voice speed? I am! 160 words per minute works in such a case.
Here’s an exercise for you to try. The text in white in the box below is 100 words. Read it while timing yourself. Divide the number of words (100) by the minutes it took you to read the 100 words and you’ll get your words per minute. Is it around 140 wpm? If so, you’re in good shape.
Keep your voice speed in check. Your audience thanks you in advance!