What influences your overall speaking rate?

15 Nov

What influences your overall speaking rate?

There are many factors which influence your overall speaking rate:

  • Your normal speaking rate
    This is a product of your birth, your culture, and your history (family, profession, etc.) Some people talk faster. Some people talk slower. Neither is inherently good or bad.
  • Nervousness and stress
    Speaking under pressure tends to make you speak faster. I am not immune to this trait. If I’m speaking with notes of any kind, I’ll often write “SLOW DOWN” in red ink in the margin as a reminder.
  • Mental fatigue
    If you are tired, you will tend to speak slower. You’ll also tend to make more mistakes which further slows your effective speaking rate.
  • Complexity of the words
    If you’re measuring speaking rate in words per minute, then longer words will usually slow down your speaking rate.
  • Complexity of content
    Longer sentences and more complex speech content means more pauses are necessary, and this will slow down your speaking rate, too. This is desirable because it helps your audience — they need more time to mentally process longer sentences and more complex content. However, it would help them more to simplify your content and shorten your sentences.
  • Verbal pauses
    Insertion of natural pauses in your verbal delivery will slow your speaking rate, but the gains in understandability are worth it!
  • Extra pauses induced by you
    Every time you stop to checking your notes, think to search for a word, show a prop or slide, or demonstrate something, your speaking rate drops. Often, the benefits of doing these things outweighs the drawbacks. [Some of these pauses can be reduced by more thorough preparation.]
  • Extra pauses induced by your audience
    When your audience applauds or laughs, this slows you down too. Larger audiences tend to induce larger delays.
  • Extra pauses induced by the environment
    These are harder to predict, but you should allow for them. For example, loud noises outside the room or other distractions may force you to pause, or repeat yourself.

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