How many words does my speech need to be?

Updated: Nov 1, 2018

So you have to write a ten minute speech, and you’re not sure how many words to write. You don’t want to write too many. That’s a waste of time. But you also don’t want too few. There’s nothing worse than getting up to deliver a ten minute presentation, and it only runs for five minutes.

How many words should your speech be?

John F Kennedy

John F Kennedy spoke at different rates according to the occasion. The Guinness Book of Records describes a speech by JFK where he spoke at over 300 words a minute. Another time he gave a speech where he spoke at under a hundred words per minute.

Studies show that the average person speaks at between 125 and 150 words per minute.

My advice is to aim for lesser words delivered at a slower pace – and here’s why.


There may be audience members that are from non-English speaking backgrounds. Speaking slightly more slowly will aid them to understand.

Background Noise

Sometimes people may not quite catch what you say. Speaking more slowly will help people to understand the context of your words, and therefore add meaning.

State Library Melbourne Victoria

Hearing Issues

The World Health Organization estimates that there are more than 360 million people with some degree of hearing loss. This means there’s likely to be at least a few people in your audience who will have difficulty hearing what you have to say.

How Many Words in a Ten Minute Speech?

If you calculate that you’re speaking at about 100 words per minute, then a ten minute speech would probably be around a thousand words. Don’t forget – your speech is written with purposeful pauses. Some of these may last for a few seconds. This will add time to the length of your speech. You may also have some unintended interruptions during your speech.

One of the best ways to practice your speech is to record yourself. Then play it back to someone who isn’t familiar with your presentation. See if your message is clear. If you think your speech is too long, cut a few words out. People would prefer you spoke a little less than too long.

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