Recently I learned about 2 records held by John F. Kennedy that I hadn’t heard before:

  1. FAST-TALKING – In Dec. 1961, JFK set the record for public speaking at 327 words-per-minute. (That’s like listening to a podcast at 3x the regular speed!)
  2. SLOW-TALKING – During his inaugural address, JFK spoke at a remarkably slow rate of only 96.5 wpm.

Talk About Talk #113 - Cadence - Image from the Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States. Washington, DC 20 January 1961.U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph in the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston.
Image from

Clearly, JFK understood the importance of CADENCE.

CADENCE refers to your pacing. It’s how fast you speak, aka your WPM (words-per-minute).  In other words, your timing.

Talk About Talk #113 - Cadence - image of a brown metronome set to a fast tempo with pendulum swinging

Image by kinyapin_aleksey from Gerry Images/Canva

And speaking of timing… 


Two things happened recently that told me now’s the time to devote a Talk About Talk episode to CADENCE: 

  1. Jennifer Lee specifically mentioned cadence in our recent conversation about communicating with impact. (Thank you, Jennifer!)
  2. I received a question from a listener about managing speed while speaking. (Thank you, Steven!)
Let’s get started!


  • Slow talking is anything <110 wpm. (JFK’s slow inauguration speech was 96.5 wpm)
  • Conservational speech is 120-150 wpm.
  • Podcasters typically speak at 150-160 wpm.
  • Auctioneers speak in the range of 250-400 wpm!

Talk About Talk #113 - Cadence - image of a male auctioneer holding a gavel and pointing
Image by Jupiterimages from Gerry Images/Canva

🐇 FAST-TALKING conveys urgency, passion, excitement, and emotion.

🐢 SLOW-TALKING conveys significance and seriousness.

In other words,
affects how you are perceived.


Here are 3 ways you can use CADENCE to help you improve your communication effectiveness:

Talk About Talk #113 - Cadence - image of a young boy holding a cup telephone to one ear
Image by Lepro from Gerry Images Signature/Canva

#1. Ask for FEEDBACK – Ask a trusted colleague for general feedback on your speech, and if you learn that you speak too fast or too slow, move on to…

Talk About Talk #113 - Cadence - image of a hand holding a stopwatch against a blue background
Image by slobo from Gerry Images Signature/Canva

#2. MEASURE your pace – Record yourself and count the number of words used. Then divide the number of words by the number of minutes in your recording. That’s your WPM.


But remember,
there’s more to cadence
than your WPM.


Talk About Talk #113 - Cadence - quote by Andrea Wojnicki on a turquoise background: "Instead of focusing on words-per-minute (WPM), use your cadence as a tool to improve engagement and comprehension."

Which brings me to…

#3. CUSTOMIZE your cadence – Ask yourself what you need to do to ensure your audience stays engaged AND understands you. This is where you can move beyond your WPM to consider your sequence and media choices.



Talk About Talk #113 - Cadence - image of a red toolbox with a variety of tools
Image by Creatas from Photo Images/Canva

CADENCE is just one of the many tools in our communication toolbox.  I hope this week’s Talk About Talk episode will help you leverage this tool!

There’s lots more going on at Talk About Talk. I hope you’ll explore some of the communication skills learning opportunities on the website and below.

If you know anyone who would appreciate tips on optimizing their cadence and their communication, please forward this email. THANK YOU! And if you have any questions, suggestions or feedback, please email me or record your question here.  I love hearing from you!  

Talk soon,