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Importance of time keeping for presentations


As a professional speaker it’s considered very bad form to go over time, I recommend if you want to be considered a polite and effective speaker you finish your talk on time or a few minutes early.

By going over your allotted time, some see it as bad manners or that you are eating into the time of another speaker.   Even if you are the only speaker it’s not really considerate to the audience if you run over – everyone has busy schedules and it’s not easy for people to up and leave before a talk has finished so try not to put anyone in the audience in that situation.

Timing tips for presentations:

  • Practice talking out loud and time it. With a big audience, add in additional time for laughter (hopefully) or engagement exercises, even rounding people up from a break can take a few minutes.
  • Always have a timer with you and remember to press start and have it counting up.
  • This sounds obvious make a note on each card with how many minutes in you should be – it’ll keep you on track when delivering  your talk.  Use the accumulative time on each card so that it matches the timer.
  • If there is a Teleprompter at the front of the stage it will often show when a speakers time is up, but it’s more effective to know when you need to start finishing off.
  • If it is a long talk, conference or training day ask someone you trust in the audience to show you timing cards – make sure you know what you’re doing and have practised.
  • Be very aware of timings, just saying ‘I know I’m 5 minutes over but let me say 10 more things’ is not time aware in my book!

I always recommend using the Simply Amazing Structure (SAS);  by having a structure, you will be able to remain flexible with your timings just in case of any last minute changes being needed.   No matter how much practice you have done, if you are on late and the last presenter, you may be expected to squeeze 60 minutes into a 30 minutes presentation. A good speaker does this without the audience even suspecting.   One way of doing this is to either cut out of one the topics you were going to cover or by instead of covering 3 points in great detail you cover them in less depth.

When on stage if you are in the zone you’ll lose track of time so always time yourself.   Above, I suggested you use a timer – and for me, a simple watch isn’t the best instrument for several reasons.   If throughout your presentation you keep checking your watch – so will the audience! You might look like you are in a hurry with somewhere better to be – not there! I like kitchen timers – I never thought I’d find myself writing that sentence! I buy small timers that are easy to rest on the table (they normally have a little stand) to the side and click on when you start.  Or for my training where appropriate, I take a full sized clock, which cost just a few pounds and its a light plastic so it can be stuck on a wall with blue tack! I pop it on the back wall and then I can check for time without having to look away from the audience.

Depending on what timing device you use, I find that it is best when practising to write the timings of each section e.g. 10 minutes AND the time that it should be on the clock when you reach that element, then if your timing slips you can adjust but if you start on time it’s easy to glance and see you are at the right place at the right time.

If you are ahead or behind schedule no need to worry just be aware of that and adjust accordingly and either catch up or slow down as you move forward through the talk.

With the technology of voice recorders, either hand-held or on your PC it’s easy to listen to yourself when practising before your presentation. As you listen back through your talk you can re-write anything that’s not easy to say or add emotion or additional interesting points.

If you think you or your team could benefit from presentation skills training then please do get in touch. We offer multi award winning presentation skills training, which is also CPD accredited training for teams and one to one presentation skills coaching for key individuals. We work with nervous presenters to help them tackle their fears and gain confidence so they can present effectively in team meetings, at conferences or to clients. We also work with more seasoned presenters who want to up their game, by delivering a keynote speech at an industry conference for example. We are happy to tailor our training to your specific needs, so give me, Dee Clayton a call.

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