Timing is Everything!
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
Like in romance, job promotions, and the lottery, timing in presentations is everything!
In this newsletter, I will explore the three timings you have to worry about as a speaker: starting on time, timing during your presentation, and ending on time.
Audiences will forgive many presentation foibles, but they won’t forgive your presentation going over time. Nor should they!
Starting on Time
Remember when you were allowed to go to a movie theater and watch that movie you have been wanting to see for a while? Do you remember all those ads for popcorn, candy, and coming attractions that come on at the time the movie is supposed to start. You want the movie to start, but you have to sit through all these ads.
How do you feel when this happens. Right! You are saying to yourself and maybe your companion, “Enough already. Start the movie!”
The same kind of feeling is in the minds of your audience members when you delay the start of your presentation.
There are two rules you should never break as a speaker – Start on time and end on time. If you really want your audience to love your presentation, end your presentation before the end time. Giving back time to your audience is one of the greatest gift you can give your audience.
So, starting on time is very important, but what about the timing during your presentation?
Timing During Your Presentation
Timing during your presentation is a bit trickier and directly affects your end time which we will discuss in the next section.
When you are practicing your presentation, plan your timing so you are 10% to 20% less time than you are allowed for your presentation. The reason for doing this is your audience interacting with you, you reacting to their reactions, and your audience asking questions during your presentation will add 10% to 20% to your time.
I had a teacher in High School who always said to “Divide and Conquer” when we were faced with a challenging project. This is exactly what you should do when you are developing a presentation.
All presentations are made of the following basic parts:
Introductory information – What you will tell your audience
Body made up of three main points (Trust me on the three main points) – Telling your audience
Concluding information – Telling your audience what you told them
Use the “Divide and Conquer” method by timing these parts of your presentation separately using the below timing.
Your opening should be about the same length of time as your closing
Your introductory information should be about the same length of time as your concluding information
The three main points in your body should be about the same length of time – this part of your presentation should take the majority of your time.
Following the guideline that when you practice your presentation, it should be 10% to 20% less than your allotted time, work on and time the separate parts of your presentation and then add the times of the separate parts to get your total time. It’s that simple!
So, starting on time and timing separate parts of your presentation are necessary, but are not sufficient when it comes to timing. If you violate the next timing rule, it will be hard to recover your presentation.
Ending on Time
You have attended many classes, seminars, and conferences over your career. Were you ever disappointed a presentation ended early? Maybe some of you were, but my educated guess is the vast majority of you did not.
Many beginning and experienced speakers are under the assumption (you may be included in this group) they must go through every slide, every story, and any other piece of information in their presentation they planned no matter if they go past the end time or not. This is a fatal mistake. If your presentation goes past the end time, you run the likely risk that the information of the spectacular presentation you gave will be lost in the complaints from audience members about you going too long.
Another casualty of going too long in your presentation is you cut into the time for other speakers on the venue to speak. You will have the next speaker, the event planner, and the audience mad at you!
If you are a professional speaker, the one person you must satisfy and hopefully delight is the event planner. You want to be invited back to speak. Going over your time almost makes being asked to return a slim possibility.
Quite often, unless you are the first speaker in a program, one or more of the speakers before you will go long. You may be asked by the event planner to “shave” 10 or 15 or 20 minutes off your presentation. The best way to handle this is to plan for this during your presentation preparation time.
When a ship is sinking, everything not essential is thrown overboard. If this happens to you, pick out the absolute minimum segment of information in your presentation you must get across to fulfill your purpose and “throw everything else overboard.” Above everything, end on time!
So, starting on time, timing separate parts of your presentation, and ending on time are essential elements of your presentation just as important as the actual information.
Practice your timing throughout your preparation. You will be glad you did.
Do you want to be a hero or a goat!
Your Call to Action
Always start on time, no matter what
Time separate parts of your presentation and then add the time to see your total time – if the total time is too long, take out your “pruning shears” and cut “the fat” in your presentation
Never, ever go past your ending time – if you have to, take out some “meat” from your presentation – ending on time is sacred to your audience
“Stop talking. It’s the end. Finish. Time’s up.” – Write-out-loud.com
DiBartolomeo Consulting International’s (DCI) mission is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence.
Contact DCI at
Office – (703) 815-1324
Cell/Text – (703) 509-4424