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  • Bruce Rule

Voice Is a Powerful Tool in Public Speaking (Part 4)

Updated: May 2

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A Metronome Can Help You Determine Your Pace

We have discussed why your voice is a very important tool you can use to improve your public speaking and become a more effective communicator (You can review the post here.) We have also discussed pitch and volume and today we will look at pace.


Your normal pace is how fast you talk when you are having a conversation. Most Americans speak 120 to 150 words a minute in conversations, according to the National Center for Voice & Speech. We tend to speak a bit slower in presentations because we are being more careful about the words we use. Professional speakers like auctioneers and TV commentators tend to speak faster, reaching as much as 250 words per minute. Highly skilled auctioneers have been known to speak as fast as 400 words a minute!


Normal pace varies greatly per person, of course, based on where they grew up, their home life and other factors. There is no one right pace for every situation, but it is important for you to understand what your normal pace is so you can vary it for effect.


This is hard to tell without recording yourself because in your own mind you understand everything you say clearly so it easy to assume your pace is fine. But it might be too fast for others to understand, or so slow that listeners become impatient.


Determine Your WPM


To determine your normal words-per-minute (wpm) pace, record yourself speaking in a normal voice for several minutes. (It is important to go several minutes because you likely will rush the first few words or sentences.)  The key is to try to speak as normally as possible on any topic that you are comfortable with so there are no long pauses while you think of what to say next.


A good time would be three to four minutes. You can use a stopwatch (there are free ones online). Ignore the first 30 seconds, then count how many words you speak each minute of the remaining full minutes. Average that out and you should have a general idea of how many words you normally speak per minute. If you are tech-savvy, you could have your speech converted to text and past the text into a word counter.


This next part is a bit trickier. Get a recording of you giving a presentation. If you have one already, that is great. If you don’t, make sure you record the next time you do a presentation. Now count the number of words you are speaking in the heart of the presentation (again, ignoring the first 30 seconds). How different is your pace? As mentioned above, for most people it will be slower.


If you discover that your normal pace is faster than 150 or you give your presentations at lightning speed, you need to slow down so people can understand you better. On the other hand, if you are much, much slower than the usual way people speak you might need to practice increasing your pace.


The easiest way to practice your pace is with a metronome. If you are working with a computer, just search for “free metronome online.” There are also free metronome apps for your mobile device if you prefer to practice that way.


Set the metronome for the number of ticks per minute. I suggest you start with 120 ticks per minute so you can get a feel what it is like to speak at that pace. Then decrease the ticks down to 110 or 100 to practice speaking even slower (as most of us do when giving presentations.)


Once you are comfortable with those paces, you can start to work on varying your pace for effect. We’ll discuss that in a coming post.


For now, work on learning what your pace is and correcting it if it is too slow or fast.


Note: Please feel free to comment on this post or ask any question about public speaking and I will address it in a blog post. If you want to discuss something privately, feel free to reach out to me at



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