Do the Flesch-Kincaid

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!

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