Wednesday, April 11, 2012

More rabbit than Sainsburys

Forgive me for borrowing a line from the blessed Chas and Dave's 1981 hit, in order to create a tenuous link to Easter. Suffice it to say that this tip is about not talking for too long on stage. This was prompted by a debate in the National Speakers Association Facebook group, where are speaker was asking how to deal with someone who spoke for too long. I'm sure you can imagine the response. So how do you make sure you don't overstay your time on the platform? 

Obviously, the easiest way is to keep an eye on a timer. That may not always be easy, unless you bring your own or there is a clock (which must be showing the correct time) visible to you. If you're the type of speaker that wanders the stage without notes, then having a timer may not work, since you can't carry it around with you. 

Another option is to have someone in the audience who will act as your timer. Agree a series of signals with perhaps ten, five, and two minutes to go. Make sure that you look at them occasionally, and acknowledge their signals. This works very well unless (and I have seen this happen) your timing friend dozes off. 

Other things that can throw your timings are:

  • Allowing extended audience debates during your speech
  • Underestimating the time for audience exercises
  • Going off at a tangent
  • Technical hitches
  • Forgetting (or not checking) the time you are allotted
Your job, as a professional, is to finish on time regardless of the above, some of which may be beyond your control. If that means cutting material out on the fly, that's what you have to do. But never, ever, cut the end of your speech, since that's the important message. Less rabbit in the middle is the key.

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