The ability to stick to time in your presentations is not only simple to do, but also vital. There are a number of reasons why sticking to the given time frame is important. Here are a few reasons:
- You show respect to your audience by sticking to the time frame and not underdelivering or going over the allotted time.
- If you’re amongst other speakers you respect them and the event organisers by sticking to the time frame and allowing the event to run as per schedule.
- And thirdly, by sticking to your time and having a presentation planned for that time you don’t risk stressing out, panicking and worrying about whether you have enough time left to finish, if you have too much time left when you’re about to finish or you’ve gone over and you still have a long way to go.
If you go over your allotted time, you risk the audience walking out, getting uncomfortable and looking at their watch, stop listening to you or you’ll be asked to stop your presentation or start wrapping up. This can make you feel extremely uncomfortable and cause you to lose valuable delivery time.
In this article, I’ll share 5 tips on how you can ensure you stick to the time limit of your presentation.
Before you plan your presentation, know how much time you have to speak
If you’re pitching to investors, you’re usually given a time frame, i.e 20 minutes. If you’re invited to speak at an event, the organisers should tell you how long your presentation needs to be.
If they don’t tell you and they just invite you, ask them “how long would you like me to speak for?” so you can plan your presentation accordingly.
Organise a schedule
Now that you know how long your presentation needs to be, you can organise the content, Q&A time, activities and if required, breaks. If you want to have a Q&A session ensure you implement it using the time you have.
For example, if you have 30 minutes to speak, spend five minutes on the opening, 15 minutes on the middle, five minutes on the conclusion and five minutes on the Q&A. This is a rough guide but you can see the approximate percentage spent on each section.
Rehearse against the clock
Once you’ve planned your presentation, spend time rehearsing it against the clock. If it’s too short, add to it. If it’s too long, edit it. If you’re under by a few minutes, it’s not the end of the world but going over can cause issues for you on the day. Keep rehearsing and editing it until you have the timing correct and ready for the stage.
I was asked to speak at a storytelling event and the rule was to tell a story in 10 minutes. Once I figured which story I wanted to share I spent days rehearsing it against the timer to ensure I share the key parts of the story within the time frame.
On the day
There are a few things you can do on the day to ensure you get the most out of your time on stage. Arrive early, start your presentation on time and make sure you have everything organised including your slide deck. One of my worst presenting experiences was due to lost time.
I was pitching to important decision makers and opening the wrong slide deck cost me seven valuable minutes! I was given 20 minutes to speak and they cut me off when I hit 20 minutes and I hadn’t finished the pitch. Had I organised myself better, I wouldn’t have made that awful mistake.
Monitor your progress
Now that you’re on the stage, monitor your progress. You could ask someone to let you know when you have 15 minutes, 10 minutes and/or five minutes to go. If you have a table or podium next to you, use your phone as a timer (remember to put it on airplane mode during your presentation).
Or, if you rehearse your presentation against the clock and you’re using slides, then your slides should be a good indicator of how long you’ve spoken for and how long you have left.
I was once at an event with nine different speakers each given 45 minutes to speak. I had never heard of one of the speakers before but he and his presentation were incredible. Towards the end of his presentation, he asked: “how long do I have left?”. As the organisers were checking, I wanted to shout “forget how long you have left and just keep talking!”.
Until you reach this level, make sure you follow the steps above to ensure you deliver a well organised, well prepared and well-timed presentation.
Hanieh Vidmar is a speaker, trainer and former TV Presenter. She’s delivered pitches on behalf of other companies, won contracts and raised over £1m in funds. Her goal is to help as many people overcome their fears of public speaking so they can achieve bigger and better goals with confidence.
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