“How many words is a 7-minute speech.” Your mileage will vary. I once glanced at a club member’s speech, printed and lying on the desk before her. She was about to tackle a contest, and the speech immediately struck me as too long for the 3-5 minute time allocation. She went on to prove that she spoke faster than my pace, and it did not sound the least bit rushed. Note to self.
Knowing what looks right on paper turns out to be an individualized “rule of thumb”. To get it right requires understanding how fast you speak. I am a slow speaker (Texans are like that), around 105 -115 words per minute (but can run up to 150 if it’s all front of mind). Women tend to speak faster, around 130-140 wpm could be a good average (the brain can process much faster). Knowing your speaking speed helps you set your writing length word count target. For me, a full 7 minute-plus speech is about 830 words max. (I pause a lot, OK). For others, it could be much higher.
If it’s not committed to memory (it takes me awhile) and I want to make sure the speech gets all that beautiful writing across, I’ll use my notes. Printing, I’ll use 11 pt Arial, spaced at 1.5 lines spacing. This makes it a nice spacing – big enough to quickly scan for my place and find the lines (though I recommend 12 pt for that purpose). I’ve learned how long it looks on the page - a 7 minute speech lays out at about 1 ¾ pages. But I was wrong about judging someone else's script length. Her print-out was about 1 ½ pages and was not a large font. Vs. the 3-5 minute limit of the contest, it looked to me, based on my practices, to be long. I learned that my normal does not apply elsewhere.
As you read your speech, mark the word on the page where you end each minute of delivery. Then, word count those one-minute groups and average them for your speaking speed. Print the page in your desired font and spacing, and you’ll have your own visual rule of thumb for judging the printed “look” of a given length. The visual reference will help confirm your comfort level for length, pace, and rhythm. Those elements are part of preparation and confidence; knowing that you are within YOUR limits.
Do you have tricks for targeting word count or script length?