Effective presentations stay on message and on time
Along with offering the wrong material, one of the bigger mistakes a presenter can make is running too long. Some presenters take a cavalier attitude toward time, especially if they’re speaking in the evening. Regardless of when your presentation occurs, stay on time. It shows respect and a level of professionalism. These tips will help you.
Develop an outline and script The framework for your presentation, an outline creates order and structure. Your notes or script, developed from your outline, keep you on message and on time. Speakers who try to “wing it” during either the research stage or the presentation itself often end up with an incoherent speech that wanders aimlessly and goes well over the allotted time.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse The best way to know whether you’re on time is to do a full rehearsal. Don’t quicken your pace or cut corners. If, for example, you want to use 10 minutes for a group exercise, stop your rehearsal for 10 minutes. Walk away, and do some chores or other tasks to burn that time.
Do you need time to erase the whiteboard? Hand out materials? Open a new program or file? Factor in those, as well. Plan for questions, because you’ll get some. Every aspect of your presentation must be rehearsed so your timing and flow are properly represented.
Use timing cues These can be written on a separate piece of paper or in the margins of your script. It is crucial that the time references correspond to the time of the presentation, not when you rehearsed. Also, don’t record in time increments; for example, “15 mins in,” “30 mins in.” While giving your presentation, you will be forced to mentally calculate the time based upon your start time. That could be distracting for you.
Let’s say you rehearse a 75-minute presentation starting at 2:45. You decide to cue yourself in 15-minute increments. Your notes for the rehearsal would show references at 3:00, 3:15, and so on.
If your presentation starts at 10:00, cue yourself based upon that. In this case, your notes indicate you should be at certain portions of your material at 10:15, 10:30, and so forth.
Have a timepiece within view Don’t assume that the meeting room has a clock, and that the clock is in a convenient location. Set a watch or small clock near your script so you can review the time when you glance at your material.
Avoid the natural inclination to look at your watch. Once or twice is OK, but more frequently, and you appear to be anxious to leave or disorganized. Remember the flack George H.W. Bush caught when he glanced at his watch during a debate?
If you don’t have a spare watch or small clock, use your wristwatch. Position it so you can easily view the time, and that it won’t get buried as you shuffle your papers.
End early Craft every presentation so that you end five to 10 minutes early. Presentations tend to run a bit longer than rehearsals. (You get more questions than anticipated, and some questions lead to lengthy side discussions.) Those final moments can be used to complete evaluation forms and ask any remaining questions.
Plus, as noted above, ending on time – and especially a bit early – shows respect for your audience and any presenter to follow.
Time is a precious resource. The mark of a great presenter is one who delivers good material effectively, and does so while staying within the allotted time. Make that one of your goals for your presentations.
For related reading, see “Grab attention with your opening” and “Some tips for effective presentations.”
What have you found helps keep you on time? Feel free to comment below. If you found value in this column, could I ask you to share it with others? Thanks.
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