Timing Is Everything

Fast Speaker or Fast Listener

In the Toastmasters world of public speaking, timing is everything. The 5 to 7-minute speech is our Gold Standard. Icebreakers are usually 4 to 6 minutes long. Fast speakers speak fast; however, not everyone happens to be a fast listener. To ensure speakers remain within their allotted time when delivering an icebreaker, it is best to write a 5-minute speech, for delivery in 6.30 minutes. For a 5 to 7 minute speech, write a 6-minute speech for delivery in 7:30 minutes.

The average speaking rate of most humans is between 120 to 140 words per minute. Therefore, it is important for every speaker to calculate his or her own personal speaking rate. In order to find your personal speaking rate, select a passage from a famous speech. Read it as if you are delivering that speech using pauses and vocal variety.  Read for one minute.  Time yourself. Your word count will be the number of words you read from the beginning of the passage to your last word at the one-minute mark. If your average rate is 130 words per minute, your word count for an icebreaker should be approximately 130×5=650 words – average.

Once you have calculated your speaking rate, you should gather your Readability Statistics. When using MS Word Readability Statistics for Writing, you will need to have grammar checking turned on. Microsoft Word’s readability scores are based on American audiences and Word’s grammar checking. These statistics give speakers an idea of the readability of their content. They also provide general rules that can be useful when editing your written material.

The Readability Statistics facility in Microsoft Word includes:

  • Counts: Count the number of words, characters, paragraphs, and sentences in the document.
  • Averages: Averages the number of sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, and characters per word.
  • Readability statistics: Calculates the percentage of passive sentences in the document, Flesch Reading Ease score, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

A grade level of 5-9 is recommended for general readers. A grade level of 7-12 is acceptable for industry and technical writings. Remember as you edit, you are writing for the ear and not for the eyes. Edit to make your speeches conversational. Stay on time. That is and will always be the Toastmasters Gold Standard.