When you are asked to speak at an event and are given a time limit for your talk, stay on time. Be sure to review your time limitations when you arrive at the engagement. Always finish your speech on time, or ideally a minute or two earlier.
Prepare your speech early and thoroughly. Having to prepare a speech at the last minute will only increase your anxiety. After you have prepared your speech time it as you PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!! This is a prerequisite to being able to keep to time.
Begin by accepting the time limit and making sure that you prepare for it. Staying on time does a lot in protecting your reputation. Meeting planners talk to other meeting planners. Talking longer that your allotted time is unprofessional and discourteous to both the audience and the meeting planner; it’s a cardinal sin.
I once was invited to hear a so-called professional speaker who was on a panel and was given 6 minutes to tell a little about himself. He went on and on for 44 minutes and although the meeting planner should have turned off his microphone, he didn’t. I would have cut his mike and ushered him off the podium. The planner stood beside the speaker and the speaker kept on going. The audience even tried to help by trying to aplaude him off stage, which finally drowned him out, then he sat down. The entire panel was cut short because the next session had to begin. I was embarrassed for the meeting planner. If I told you his name, everyone reading this would know who I was talking about. The point is: Stay on time!
Arrive early. You may want to ask the planner if they typically get started on time or whether they wait for latecomers. You may need to adjust your talk accordingly. Ask the meeting planner to give you a signal from the back of the room when you have 10 minutes to go and another signal for five minutes. Two signals gives the speaker time to smoothly transition to the end. And having two signals is also helpful when the first isn’t seen immediately. A good signal can be the organizer standing up in the back of the room or holding up a colored card.
You may not be able to rely on every meeting or conference room having a clock. Your best bet… buy a timing device with large numbers and put it on the lectern.
SideNote: The following two words are often misspoken by meeting planners and speakers.
• Lectern – Desk for a standing reader (or speaker). Something you stand behind when you speak. The lectern is often on the podium.
• Podium – A raised platform (as for a speaker). Something you stand on when you speak. Often called a riser.
Practice your talk in from of a mirror and time it, but remember, a speech delivered live on stage will always take longer than a version delivered solo to a mirror. Most speakers overestimate how much material they can adequately cover within a given time. They want to “share everything” and “leave nothing back.” On the other hand, the wise presenter develops a strong self-awareness about how long it takes to effectively deliver their message.
In spite of all your advance preparations you may still run out of time. The solution is not simply to talk faster. Work out ahead of time what segment you will drop if this should happen. Highlight the most important elements of your speech in your notes. If you have to cut out some of your talk, do not speak of it to the audience. They will never know. A true professional speaker can edit on the fly.
It’s a privilege to have the audiences attention, whether it’s for 5 minutes or an hour. Don’t abuse it! End on time – every time.
There are so many speakers out there who cannot stay within their allocated time limit. Don’t be one of them!
Copyright © 2013 – Larry James. Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact: AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. CelebrateLove@cox.net – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at: www.AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com
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