Are you a motor-mouth when your speak? Do you speak with a slow deliberate pace? There are several things that influence your speaking rate. These include nervousness, tiredness, word choice, and the weightiness of your topic, and even where you come from.
We all start with our natural speaking speed. This is the general conversation rate that we are used to. This may be influenced by regional dialects, or personal speech impediments (such as slurs and stutters). Most English speakers average around 160 words per minute.
However, when it comes to public speaking stress tends to make people rush their presentation. When you are nervous it increases not only your heart rate, but your word rate as well. If you feel yourself starting to rabbit on, it is time to take a pause, a breath, and to chill before continuing.
Fatigue on the other hand will tend to make you speak slower. It also tends to induce more mistakes in either pronunciation, or the losing of place. These can slow you down even more.
Big words and big ideas also will slow down your rate. Longer or more complex words tend to be approached haltingly, especially if they are not part of your day to day vocabulary. The use of unfamiliar, or multisyllabic words really should be limited in order to maintain a natural flow. The same is true of complex constructions using multiple sub-clauses. While such phrases give a more precision to your speech they do tend to slow down your speaking rate. Don’t get me wrong, informative, and technical presentations sometimes need these, but remember they will affect your timings.
Remember too that there are external factors which may impact your timing. These include applause, laughter, and even coughing. These environmental factors may cause pauses, so need to be factored into you calculations.
So are you an Al Gore (133 wpm in a TED talk) or a “Motormouth” John Moschitta (586 wpm for The Guinness Book of World Records)?