Friday, November 23, 2012

Speakers - 8 ways to stay on time.

When you're on stage, you have a responsibility to your audience. Naturally, you have to provide them with great value, but you also have a responsibility to respect their time. You have the same responsibility to your fellow presenters. For a speaker whose slot is scheduled just before a break, having their time cut sort by previous speakers who over-ran is very frustrating indeed. 

You need to be aware of timing throughout the event. If it looks as though the timings are slipping, you must speak to the organiser to find out if you can deliver your full speech, or need to shorten it to get the event back on schedule. It's their call, not yours. You also need to finish your speech on time, or ideally a minute earlier. Remember that a speech delivered live on stage will always take longer than a version delivered solo to a mirror. 

So if you do need to shorten your speech at short notice, what can you do? Here are some tips:

  • Prepare by highlighting the most important elements of your speech in your notes (if you use them).
  • Stay calm.
  • Never apologise for missing out content, since your audience won't know.
  • It's easier to leave out a story than shorten it.
  • Learn how to skip to a slide, rather than paging through them.
  • If you lose your place in your slides, use the "B" key to turn the screen black, and just talk to the audience.
  • Don't hurry, or speed up at the end.
  • Take out content from the middle of your speech - keep the ending intact.


Tanya Rennick said...

Thank you so much for this excellent and authoritative advise, Alan. Taking a bit out from the middle is much more preferable than speeding up at the end and so much less obvious to the audience. These are great tips.

Guy Clapperton said...

Great post. The only area I'd disagree with is the idea that things always take longer in front of an audience; only yesterday I listened to someone I thought was pretty damned good at the Business Start-Up Show, one Lloyd Gofton of Liberate Media. He came off the stage and said, damn, that took a full 27 minutes at home but he finished at 22 mins. It didn't matter on this occasion, the audience hadn't been given a 'stop' time and his delivery was perfectly clear and the messages worth taking away - but from his point of view it seems nerves made him much faster than he'd anticipated.

Alan Stevens said...


Thanks for your feedback. Much appreciated.

Alan Stevens said...


A fair point. It may be that nerves get the better of a presenter and they speed up on stage. My experience of working with professional speakers is that the reverse is true, but perhaps that applies only to those who are comfortable with audience intervention, and relaxed on stage.