I’m often asked whether how quickly we speak influences how well others understand us. If you speak clearly and chunk your messages well, speed shouldn’t be the reason why people misunderstand.
But the problem is, as you speed up, it gets harder for you to speak clearly. If you drop your word endings and everything mumbles together, people might have a hard time understanding you. But, if you’re able to maintain crisp enunciation despite your quick pace, your listeners shouldn’t have a problem.
That said, I know you want a real answer, so here you go…
Try not to speak in public at a rate above 200 words per minute. Even 200 is a bit high. The best rate for me, is actually somewhere between 160 and 170 words per minute.
How can you test this? Easy! Copy part of an email into a word document. Use the Word Count tool to cut the passage down to 200 words. Set your timer to 1 minute and then see how far you read (out loud) during that minute. When the timer rings count how many words are left on your page, subtract them from 200.
Voila, there’s your speaking rate!