How to Calculate the Length of a Speech

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Droning on too long is a common mistake for public speakers. It's also an easy mistake to make because estimating the length of a speech before you give it can be difficult. But besides being rude, speaking too long can undercut your message by irritating or boring your audience. To avoid this mistake, time yourself carefully and thoroughly prepare for your speech.

  • Write down your speech, notes or an outline. Many speakers recommend against writing out your whole speech, but you need some kind of notes. Otherwise, you may give a different speech each time, and your timing will be off.

  • Time yourself giving the speech. You should probably practice several times, because your speed may change as you become more comfortable with your material.

  • Check your timing with a live audience, if possible. Most people get more nervous in front of an audience, and nervousness can cause you to talk faster than normal. If you can't find someone to watch you practice, you can try recording your practice on camera or giving the speech to a pet.

  • Divide your speech time by the number of pages in the speech to find your average speed per page. You can use this later to estimate the length of other speeches as you write them. Once you know your time per page, multiply that figure by the number of pages in your speech to calculate the total time.

References

  • "Transform Your Public Speaking"; Nina Valentine; 1993
  • "Public Speaking for College and Career"; Hamilton Gregory; 2002
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images
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