Presentation Skills Training: How to Keep Time

You have probably heard other presenters say “my presentation went over time, and that’s wonderful” before. For many years, this adage was the measuring tool to gauge a presentation’s success. Presenters thought going over on their time meant they had good presentation skills.

I am unable to verify if there was a time when this measuring tool was correct, but these days time is far more precious. In the age of overwhelming information and a million things to do, presenters risk far more than they know by going over on the time allotment.

When others enter the room and want to hear you speak, they have sacrificed precious time away from other important things to be receptive to your message. It is stressful for every single audience member when presenters speak all the way to the last second or go over on their allotted speaking time. In addition, you will have the contact person or sometimes several people waving hands or items to get your attention to make you aware that time is coming to an end. Forcing people to get your attention because you the presenter, are too oblivious to the time, will make you stop at least for a moment to acknowledge the message. This distraction interrupts any rhythm you had established and distracts the audience.

blog_offer_6_fears_guideThere is endless advice floating around cyberspace that highly suggest you keep your presentation time in check. However, they fall short of how to do it. Here are some of my best tips for doing so:

  1. If you use PowerPoint or Keynote, use presentation mode. This mode will show you the current slide, the next slide and a clock to let you know how long you have been speaking. All of this information is helpful on an index screen!
  2. When planning out your presentation, time yourself reading it aloud. You speak aloud slower than you read to yourself in your head; that is why this technique will work to give you a rough estimate of how long your presentation will last.
  3. Plan to run 20% short. Nobody has ever heard a complaint because the presentation wasn’t long enough, and you never will. To keep the audience members from getting extremely fidgety with time running short, you need to give them the courtesy of ending a little early. The extra benefit for you is the ability to network after because people aren’t running out the door.
  4. Grab a timer. In a recent video I posted on our Facebook page, I suggested a time tracker device that can really help this situation. Just put the allotted time in the device and when you want an alert. Then it shows yellow for your first alert and red when your time is entirely up. Reading aloud gives an estimate. However, if everything goes the way it is supposed to go, you aren’t reading your presentation off of a slide. You should be elaborating on the talking points on your own. This reason is why this timing gadget is helpful.
Keep your time in mind while planning and practicing your presentation. If you are running long, then you need to cut back some of your content. Also, remember you need to include time for people to settle in the room and for someone to introduce you, so you can not plan to fill 100% of the time.
Comment below if you have any questions or additional tricks or techniques you use to keep your time in check.

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