Do you find yourself always going over…or under…time on your presentation?
Many presenters worry that their talk is going to be too short, but then end up running way over time or needing to chop sections out on the fly. Ensuring your presentation fills (but doesn’t exceed) the time you’ve been allotted is important. It’s also surprisingly hard to do – you don’t have much processing power available to be watching the clock while your brain is focused on giving your talk. Time doesn’t just fly when you’re giving a talk, it WARPS.
In this Communication Q&A, I’ll give you some of my top tips for ensuring your presentation comes in on time – not over, not under, but just right.
If the embedded video is being cranky, click here to view directly on YouTube.) And as always, you can scroll down to read the full transcript.
Have YOU ever needed to frantically cut down…or fluff up…a presentation at the last minute? I’d love to hear your story – click here and tell me all about it in the YouTube video comments section. And please remember to click “like” on the video and share it with those who might need a gentle hint about the length of their presentations.
Hi everyone, Lauren Sergy here with another one of your excellent communication questions, and this one is time sensitive. Literally. It’s about timing. So let’s go!
Hi Lauren – thanks so much for all the advice. It’s been really helping! One thing I’m struggling with in my talks is my timing. I’m always going over time – I think I’m going to take less time than I have, so I improvise to fill in space, and then I always take too long and have to leave things out. How do I fix this?
Can’t wait to hear your answer,
Jennifer, THANK YOU for this question! Timing is one of the trickier aspects of speaking and presenting, and it’s something that can often throw a speaker for a loop. Now some speakers shrug off timing, but let me tell you right now: it is hugely important. Very few things will annoy an audience faster than someone going way over their allotted time, and it’s frankly disrespectful to the person who planned the meeting or event, and to any speakers coming after who now need to shorten their talks to get the agenda back on schedule.
This is to say that I’m very happy you want to get your talks back on schedule.
Getting your timing down is a matter of planning and practice – I know, two words people hate to hear! But you can’t skimp on planning and practice because time warps when you’re speaking.
It’s incredibly difficult to have an accurate sense of how long you’re taking when you’re up there focused on your speech. Even with a timer in front of you, it’s can feel like the first half of your talk takes forever while the second half rushes past at light speed.
The planning phase involves breaking down your talk into it’s main components – identifying each different idea or section and estimating how long each part will take. I call this the time budget, because…well…time is limited and you need to budget it just like you need to budget your money!
My own loose guideline is that I always leave at least 25% of my allotted time for Q&A, a minimum of 2 minutes (but usually closer to 5) for my intro, and a couple minutes for my conclusion. Once I hive those off, I distribute the remaining time between each segment, estimating how long each segment will take. One segment might need 4 minutes, while another only gets 90 seconds.
Now comes the practice part. Get out a timer and start talking your way through one of those segments. Check to see if you’re on, under, or over time. If you’re going over time, than you can either edit down that segment, get rid of the segment altogether, or steal time from elsewhere by editing down or chopping out a different segment and re-distributing the leftover time.
Then wash, rinse, and repeat….many times.
As you practice and edit your presentation, your timing will get more and more consistent until you are regularly coming in very close to your planned time. And here’s a little hint – create your talk so that you end it with a couple minutes to spare, just in case. If you’ve got 20 minutes (not counting Q&A), then plan your talk to take 17 or 18 minutes.
I know this seems like a grind, and I won’t pretend it isn’t, but planning and practice are crucial to getting your timing right. And not only will you get your timing down, but your overall delivery will be more polished, AND you’ll find it easier to edit your presentation on the fly if some other speaker ends up stealing away time for your presentation.
I hope this gets you on the path to beautifully timed presentations, Jennifer! Now, for the comment question of the day: Have you ever had to chop down one of your presentations because some part of the agenda went over time? If so, how much did you have to cut down your presentation? (whisper – I once had to chop a 90 minute workshop down to SIXTY MINUTES with only 5 minutes advance warning! I thought I was going to have a heart attack!) Tell me your story in the comments below.
I’m sure you can think of a few people who need to work on their timing, so please – share this video with them, be sure to like it and subscribe to my channel, and hit that notification bell for future updates.
And I’d love for you to join me over at laurensergy.com and sign up for even more great resources from your’s truly. Thanks so much for stopping by today, and I’ll see you on the next communication Q&A!