How Many Words per Minute (WPM) Do You Speak?

Most people discover my website by putting these “keywords:” “How Many Words-per-Minute(WPM)?” into their search-engine.

In preparing this article, I thought of the children’s bedtime story, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

  • “Not too fast”
  • “Not too slow”
  • “Just Right”

“Just the right speaking rate” – so that your audience understands your subject, your words, and your message.

What is My Speaking Rate? / What is My WPM Count?

 This is faster than the normal range of 120 – 150 wpm. According to professional speech coach Joan Detz:

“President John F. Kennedy was a notoriously fast talker – often topping 200 words per minute. You certainly don’t want to be that extreme. But, in general, talking a bit fast is better than talking too slow. Why? Speed projects charisma. Slowness projects lethargy and can frustrate listeners.”

– “It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It.”

President Kennedy gave memorable speeches.  Nearly 50 years later, I am still moved whenever I hear a recording of his most famous speeches. JFK projected “vigor!” He also used short sentences. And he used powerful “action” words. He wrote and spoke using an “active voice.” He had a focused message. And, he certainly projected “charisma!”

JFK’s WPM count was “Just Right.”

So, it is not simply your word count  – the number of words-per-minute that you speak – that matters. Your topic matters. And so does your choice of words, and your manner of delivery. Take all factors together and you will determine what WPM count is “just right.”

Just look to your audience. They will tell you:

  • Is your audience nodding in agreement? Paying attention? Maintaining eye contact with you as you speak? Your WPM is “Just Right.”
  • Is your audience falling asleep, yawning or looking at the clock? Your WPM is probably “too slow.”  And you and your subject may be boring – to them.
  • Is your audience straining to hear your words? Are they trying, too hard, to concentrate? Your WPM is probably “too fast.”

In “Secrets of Successful Speakers,” best-selling author, Lilly Walters has this to say:

“The listener thinks much faster than you talk. People generally speak at 150 words per minute, but think at 600 to 700. So your listeners are able to jump ahead and around the topic. They start adding in all kinds of factors from their own lives and experiences that have very little to do with what you’re talking about. It makes the pieces of information they are juggling in their brains monumental to consider!”

One proven technique that memorable speakers employ is “The Power of the Pause.”

“That impressive, eloquent, progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words howsoever felicitous could accomplish it.”

– Mark Twain

Recall the words that (fast-talking) President Kennedy delivered in his 1961 Inaugural Address:

“Ask not what your country can do for you. (Pause, Pause) Ask (Pause, Pause) what you can do for your country.”

As you play those words back in your mind you realize that that is an ideal example of “The Power of the Pause.”

Choose your words carefully. Practice your delivery. Check-in with your audience. That is how many words-per-minute you should speak!

Then, you will be “Just Right!”

News! My new DVD, “The 50 Best Tips for PowerPoint 2007” is available for purchase. Visit my online store for details.

Related Video

Share and Enjoy:
  • Add to favorites
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Technorati
  • Print
  • email
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Orkut
  • SphereIt
  • Sphinn


  1. […] Learn to master your speaking rate and you will achieve your goal – your message will be heard and understood. […]

  2. […] a follow-up to yesterday’s article, I produced a PowerPoint Presentation on the topic of “words-per-minute( WPM) when speaking. […]

  3. […] I published an article – “How Many Words per Minute (WPM) Do You Speak?” – on my PowerPoints […]

  4. […] Yesterday, I published an article – “How Many Words per Minute (WPM) Do You Speak?” […]

Speak Your Mind