As a speaker, there are a couple numbers you should know.

One is your average WPM — how many words do you speak per minute (the average human speaks about 120-130 words per minute). You do that so when you are writing a speech, you know about how many words you have to express your idea (for example, “I speak about 120 wpm, and my speech is 5 minutes, so my speech needs to be about 600 words).

Another number you should be aware of is what grade level do you typically speak or write at? Can a university student understand your speech? A high schooler? A middle schooler?

Speaking only so highly-educated people can understand you is not necessarily something to be proud of. In his famous product keynote speeches, Steve Jobs spoke at a middle school level, and sometimes even lower.

How can you get “your number”? Do a Flesch-Kincaid test. They’re free and easy. Go to Google and type “Flesch-Kincaid test” — you’ll get a results page filled with free F-K calculators, like this one:

Copy/paste your text into the calculator, hit enter, and watch the score magically appear.

I love Flesch-Kincaid tests so much that sometimes I paste in a speech, just for fun…

I grabbed the transcript from one of my favorite speeches, a Ken Robinson TED speech, and checked it out. What did he get? 5.7. This is one of the best speeches ever, but even a 6th grader could understand it.

Then I grabbed a Wikipedia article on nuclear fusion. Its score? 13.5. Oh, no wonder my brain hurts! You’ve got to be a university student to understand this one!


About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.