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Public Speaking: How Long for the First Draft & Best Format for Delivery

Public Speaking: How Long for the First Draft & Best Format for Delivery


I love learning from other people.  I love going to experts and figuring out their tricks and secrets.  For presentations, I like to be successful.  I like to enjoy the process.  Top pros are successful and enjoy the process.  Here’s what they say about:

  • How long to make the first draft.
  • When to use full text and when to use notecards.

How Many Pages to Write?

How many pages or words it takes to do 20 minutes of presentation depends somewhat on your speaking style.  Time your speech as you practice it to tune it up in length or down to meet your requirements.

  • General rule for the first draft is that a 20-minute speech runs about 2,000 words or about eight double-spaced pages. This is based on an average speaking rate of 100 words per minute.  Clear speech is likely to be perhaps 90 words a minute.  For some people, even 85 words per minute.

Format of Speech Delivery: Text versus Cards

  • There is no standard rule for whether to use a full script text or notes on cards.
  • If you are very familiar with the material or you have made a similar presentation several times before, notes on cards probably work well.
  • If the speech is new ground, you will probably want to begin working with the full text, at least for rehearsals.
  • The greatest benefit of notecards is allowing you more eye contact with the audience.  Some people use their powerpoint slides as their notes, but they have a paper copy also.
  • As described in a previous blog, with the full text written out, a great strategy to maintain eye contact is to look up at the end of each sentence.
  • The drawback to having only notes is you may ramble and lose some of the ear appeal that you wrote into the original speech.
  • Occasion
    • If you are doing an informal farewell, the polish is not as important as sincerity.
    • If delivering a speech to hundreds of listeners, they expect the remarks to run smoothly and finish on time.  So you definitely want to have prepared text, unless you have memorized the remarks.

Be sure to watch our English Speech Tips videos and Accent Reduction Tip videos  for more English pronunciation and accent reduction exercise.

Rerun from Sep 4, 2013 and Oct 19, 2016

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