Thursday, February 14, 2008

How Many Words a Minute?

Tonight's Islam lecture went off just about perfectly. For a lecture anyway. If I do it again I'll find some ways to break up the talking; I did have a 4-minute video I had planned to show and lead a discussion about, but I didn't quite have time for that. Instead I just lectured, with a little bit of Q&A but not much. The class seemed happy and engaged, but from a teaching perspective there was room to improve.

It did, however, give me a good chance to measure, more accurately, how much material fills two 50-minute sessions. And the answer is 8500* words - at about 400 words a page, that's just over 20 pages of lecture notes. And I guess it tells you I talk 85 words a minute, eh? Or at least, 85 written-on-the-page words. (I think they expand when exposed to air.) I wonder how that compares to other people, objectively?

[Note to people who Google 'how many words a minute' or things like that and end up on this page - Google Analytics tells me there are a number of you... Here's my advice. Time yourself. Really. Prepare your material, read it aloud at the speed at which you expect to present it, and you'll know how long it will take, how much you can cover. You can probably even figure out a minutes-per-page ratio that will help you adjust, so you don't have to time the whole thing.

Then, recognize that yielding to the temptation to add in little comments will of course change the timing. So you have to decide how much margin you need to allow. Raising or accepting questions for discussion is usually a very good idea - and people often remember what you say in the Q&A bits better than in lecture. But that also changes your timing.

The other public-speaking trick I'd suggest is to type/write your material out with headings, underlinings, and, most importantly, page numbers. Then holepunch it and put it in a binder. This keeps you from getting your pages out of order and flustering yourself.]

Also sold the rest of my books, got some contacts to follow up on, and had quite a few enjoyable conversations. Back to Colorado Friday night.

(One more scheduled trip. Feb. 25-28 I'll be in Arizona. )

* Well, my notes from another lecture total 12,000 words -- that is supposed to be two 55-minute periods, though I often show up and they tell me either 50- or 60-minute sessions are what they want, on the spot. I think it would be better for everyone if I trimmed that one to 10,000. And since that's a lecture I've given 60 times (history of the expansion of Christianity), I don't necessarily read from my notes as much as I did for the 8500 word, first-time-I've-done-this, lecture.


Megan Noel said...

i am not sure about your public speaking, but socially -- you talk fast! :)

Marti said...

It's true.