Posted by: George E Burney | March 12, 2012

Public Speaking: How To Avoid The Embarrassment Of Going Overtime

Do not allow your presentation to extend past your time limit. If there are several speakers, the length of the entire program has been pre-determined, and you go overtime, another speaker may be forced to shorten his part to compensate.

If you are the only speaker, and the length of the program has been specified, the audience will not appreciate your going overtime. When your time is up, their minds start shutting down. No matter how good your presentation is, they are eagerly anticipating your conclusion. It’s not personal, that’s just the way it is.

So, how do we ensure that we conclude our presentation within the time allowed? It begins with our preparation. When rehearsing, time the entire presentation. If you are allowed 15 minutes, and it takes 14 minutes to finish, that’s usually not a  problem. When you address a live audience, you’ll likely elaborate on a point or two, and the “extra” minute will vanish.

If it takes 16 minutes or more, it will probably take 17 or more to actually present. So, remove material (or add material if it’s much too short.) Continue to time it until you’re satisfied.

Once you’re happy with the overall length, time it once more. This time, though, mark the place on your outline where you are when 3 minutes have elapsed. Do the same after 6 minutes, 9 minutes, and 12 minutes. If you’re actually shooting for 14 minutes, although you’ve been given 15 minutes to speak, when you reach the 12 minute mark, you have only two minutes to conclude. If you finish in two minutes, your timing is great!

Continue to glance at your time indicators as you rehearse and also when making your presentation. If you are speaking from an outline, you’ll find that your timing will vary slightly each time you go over it. That’s not a problem.

If you realize that you’re way ahead, just slow down a bit by elaborating on points as you feel inclined. If you’re running behind, speed up by eliminating unnecessary details or minor points. Try to get “back on schedule” by the next time marker.

By doing this, you’ll end on time, every time!

Copyright © 2012 by George Burney and betterpublicspeaking


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