Having a time restriction for your presentation delivery is a common feature of most public speaking engagements or business events. You are usually allotted a time for speaking and a time for questions or an overall time slot for both. Keeping to this presentation time shows respect for your audience and ensures that you deliver an organized presentation that transmits a message. It’s also a sign of respect to the other speakers that come after you.
After a number of presentations, you have probably had instances of finishing earlier than expected or running over time, and that’s only natural. As you gain more experience, you get a better feeling of how to prepare your presentation better for the allotted time and how to deliver it most efficiently.
However, giving a good talk and staying on time is a coachable skill. With our team’s experience and our clients’ accounts, we’ve learned some essential elements you can keep in sight as a presenter.
Here are some tips to help you keep to time in your presentation delivery:
1. Frame your content
When planning your presentation, be realistic about what can be achieved in the allocated time. You cannot communicate the same amount of information in a presentation that you can in a report or a white paper.
Try to conceive the presentation more like a story than a dry document. People are wired to listen to stories, and metaphors. This type of narrative structures work best to engage people. They’re also easier to time block.
If you decide to frame the presentation as a story, the biggest decisions are figuring out where to start and where to end. One of the most common error in designing presentations is that they try to cover too much ground. If you try to cram in everything you know, you won’t have time to include key details, your talk will lack clarity and you’ll probably run overtime.
Also read: 5 Pro Tips For Giving Better Presentations
Organize your presentation starting from a few key ideas. Include specific case studies and examples. You might be tempted to take a broader approach to them but the more you focus your ideas and go deeper into the ones you’ve chosen, the more clear and easy to organize your presentation will be.
2. Build a layered presentation
Once you have a foundation to your presentation with the key story elements and your main ideas, you can take each section and expand it. This way, you’ll be able to give the same presentation in a longer time frame or in a shorter one, depending on the time you have.
For example, if you’re creating a presentation on Digital Marketing Trends, you can organize it to have an Introductory section, 5 Main trends, each with its own section, and a Conclusion. Every section can have 2-3 fundamental slides that can make a short version of your presentation. You can also choose to include 2-3 more slides per each section, with details, sub-trends or case studies, that can be included in the longer version of your presentation.
This way you can use the same document in two different events, with two different presentation time requirements.
3. Practice it several times
Even the most experienced presenter knows the importance of practicing your presentation. And not once, but several times. Even though you have created the content, unless you spend the necessary time speaking it out loud, to include details or body language elements and even audience interactions, you won’t know how long the presentation takes to deliver. You want to master it before presenting it to others, not only to fit in the allotted time but also to exude confidence and connect with the audience.
We’ve all heard of at least one presenter who got stuck or who didn’t know what slide was next. That’s a major no-no. Here are some things you need to time box when planning your presentation delivery:
- Getting settled in front of your audience in order to prepare your visual aids, notes etc. before you start talking;
- Distributing handouts at the start/during/end of your talk;
- Developing points in more detail if it appears that your audience hasn’t understood an area of your talk;
- Accommodating any slight deviations from your script that you might make ‘off the cuff’;
- Responding to questions whilst you’re speaking and after you’ve finished;
- Working with your visual aids (change slides, annotate images etc.);
- Accommodating any pauses whilst you review your notes / allow your audience time to think between main points.
Practice it in front of colleagues or friends. Try to replicate the actual delivery as closely as possible, don’t just read it several times or else you might not have a clear view of how much time it actually takes. It will also give you the chance to receive some constructive feedback.
4. Have someone to keep the time
We each have our own awareness of the passing of time but it’s usually not the same for everyone. Our perception of time is alo influenced by the specific situation we’re in at a certain moment. If you’re stressed, time might seem to slow down, whereas if you’re relaxed and engaged in a topic, you can easily think you have more time to present your ideas when, in fact, you don’t.
Have someone in the organizing team of the event or someone on your team hold up a sign every 15 min or so to let you know how much time you have left. You can also use a regular clock or an app that you put in front of you. If you realize you’ll soon be running out of time, pause for a moment to review what you can realistically achieve in the last moments, without rushing forcibly through the rest of the content.
Make sure you also plan for some spare time. Unexpected delays in the beginning or unforeseen audience interactions might take some of the time you’ve budgeted for your actual delivery.
The single most important thing to remember is that, in time, you’ll develop your own rhythm. Which is both a good thing and a bad one if you don’t adapt. If you’re still building up the experience, it’s a good thing; you’ll soon become more aware of how much time you need both to prepare and to deliver your presentation.
If you’re a seasoned public speaker, you might think you know all of this already. But it’s important that you always try new things and adapt to the ever changing world of presentations and public speaking. We now have a multitude of tools, apps and different types of events that might still catch you unprepared if you skip some of the steps we’ve mentioned today. You know what they say: never stop learning.