Guests and fish may stink after 3 days, but presentations start to stink already when they go over by more than 1 minute. If you want to be an impactful speaker and leave your audience wanting to hear more from you, you must make them feel appreciated. The most fundamental form of this is respecting the time frame they are expecting. These 9 time management tips will help you be a better speaker.
1. Know your time limit
This may seem obvious, but you need to know how much time you have and the absolute hard limit in case something goes wrong. Don’t accept the “around X minutes” as an answer. You need to work and plan your presentation to an exact period of time.
On the day of the presentation, please make sure to confirm with the organizer in case there are some schedule changes. If there was, you should also inform your audience of such changes. Be respectful.
2. Practice with a timer or Virtual Orator time limit setting on
Managing the presentation time is as vital as any other part of rehearsals. You need to practice it as well.
You can use a timer, a clock, or, of course, Virtual Orator. We have a couple of features that are of great help in your training.
3. Take time to prepare your message
Prepare your message carefully and as clearly as you can, and stick to it. Most of the audience will be sitting there looking at you blankly. This scares many speakers, and they start to improvise. They tend to rearrange the speech in the heat of the moment, leading to extra time spent.
Avoid this mistake by taking the time to prepare a great message. Just go to the presentation with the certainty that you have a good message. Then, deliver it in the best way possible. Keep it concise and organized.
4. Schedule ahead
When preparing a speech, you must prepare for everything, even failure. After preparing your message, divide it into introduction, 3 ideas (avoid more than 3), Q&A, and conclusion. Decide how much time you intend to spare with each of them, which helps you keep track of time.
It is tough to know if 30 minutes have passed, but you can have a more accurate idea of if 3 or 5 minutes have passed. By breaking your presentation into these parts you can maintain a feel for your timing.
5. Plan to cut!
Having an impeccable schedule of what you will say and for how long is amazing work, but things happen. There are interruptions or sudden interest in specific information or lots of questions. So many things can happen, and they are all normal, respectable, and not to fear – IF you have a plan in advance on what you can cut.
It is essential to listen to the audience and know what they want to hear, but you know there are essential points that can’t be left out. So plan ahead what’s vital, what can be cut in case of need, and how to do it smoothly (no one needs to know). If you have enough time, you can prepare different versions, but be sure to rehearse them all.
Again, don’t try to rearrange your speech or improve your message at the heat of the moment. Prepare, rehearse and make as many versions of your speech as you need to go on that stage confident and ready for everything.
6. Provide a detailed hand out
No matter how good you are, your audience will not memorize more than 3 or 4 main ideas. So you must focus on what’s more important and forget the details. Yet, this doesn’t mean that your audience can’t have them.
Think of your job as a speaker as a way to ignite that spark of curiosity in them. Prepare a detailed pdf or share a QR code that links to all the information somewhere online. All details, graphics and stats – everything you’d like to say to them, you can put into the hand out. Give it to them so they can read and study at their own speed in the comfort of their homes or office.
This way, you can focus on what it’s crucial and still give them all information. Trying to “say everything” is one of the main reasons speakers can’t keep up with the time.
8. Track your time
This is a tricky one. Looking at your watch constantly may give a bad impression, but you need to have an idea of how much time you have left. Some rooms have large clocks on the wall, making it easier to look without being noticed, but this is not always the case.
If you’re in this situation, try to lay the watch on the table or lectern. If you take this choice, rehearse this way. You can also flip the clock to the inside of your wrist, and with enough practice, you can peek at it more discretely than usual.
9. Meet them!
Meeting your audience and giving them time to talk to you and ask questions is good to help you keep the actual presentation on track.
So, are there a lot of questions? That’s great. It shows they felt your presentation was interesting and want to know more. Let them know the time is over, and make yourself available to talk after the event. It can be in person, or you can give them an email or even a phone number, if you’re comfortable with it. Make yourself approachable and make them feel comfortable to come to you.
The time is YOUR problem, not theirs.
Your audience signs up for a specific time, and you must respect it. The speaker’s job is to prepare and anticipate any issue that could disrupt the presentation and make them lose track of time.
Follow these tips to help you in this challenging task, and avoid mentioning time to your audience. You want them to be delighted with your presentation, not to be thinking about if it will be too long.
Cátia is a psychologist who is passionate about helping children develop and train social skills.