Timing a Speech to Keep Audiences Happy

If you are chosen to write a speech for another individual to present, you need to know the timing of the speech. The time limit of the speech will tell you a great deal about how much to write.

Words Per Minute

time timing stopwatch speech

If you have access to video or audio of the speaker, listen to a sampling to determine the number of words he or she speaks per minute.

You will most likely have access to prior speeches if the person is a professional speaker or politician.

However, if you do not have access to this information, use the average of 120 to 150 words per minute.

Over or Under

When you write the speech, try to make it fall under the stated time limit.

This way, if the person speaks slower than the average, they will not go over the limit. A good rule of thumb is to make the speech 10-15 percent shorter than required.

For a ten minute speech, write it for 8.5 to 9 minutes. A minute might not seem like much of a buffer, but it makes a difference.

And audiences usually prefer a speech to be shorter instead of longer.


Once you know how to time the speech, you can determine the approximate number of words to write.

If the speech is five minutes and the person speaks 125 words per minute, the speech needs to be 600-625 words long.

If you have to use the average, the speech should be 525-550 words long.

Sometimes, you will have the opportunity to work with the speaker directly to get the timing exact. If so, this method for figuring out timing can help most with the initial draft.

But, if you do not have a chance to work directly with the speaker beforehand, it is a great method for timing a speech.

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