When you give presentations, do you sometimes find yourself cramming your last two points into a few fleeting minutes? Or having WAY more Q & A time than you had expected? You’re not alone. Many find time management a particularly challenging aspect of presenting.
Poor time management does a disservice to your content, to your audience and to your credibility. Going overtime—or even under—can give the impression that you’re unprepared or you’re not fully committed to the audience and to your topic. At worst, mismanaging time can infuriate an audience.
Here’s a quick checklist to ensure you stay on track, on time and on the audience’s good side.
Be realistic in what you can achieve. Most presenters try to fit in too much information. Know the precise time limits you’re working within and the specific goals of your presentation, then plan your content accordingly. Begin your preparation by asking, “What do I want my audience to understand or learn, if nothing else?” Base your presentation’s structure on your answer; often, two or three key messages are plenty to tackle in a 45-minute to 1-hour talk. And when you are clear on your two or three key messages, you have the flexibility to expand or contract your content if your speaking time suddenly changes.
Plan for less. If you’re given fifteen minutes to speak, plan for ten. Presentations typically take longer than practice times do. Audience reaction—whether verbal or nonverbal—adds time.
Know where your timekeeper is. Decide before you speak where you’ll look to check your time. Place your watch or smartphone nearby. Find the clock in the room. Have a colleague give 10- and 5-minute signals. You don’t want to be a constant clock-watcher, but don’t worry about revealing to your audience that you are mindful of the time. It’s a sign of respect for their busy schedules.
Note your start time. You may have so many things in your head when you begin speaking that you may miss the obvious. So jot down your actual start time and projected stop time, and place them in clear view before you begin.
Use technology. Set the silent vibrating or flashing alarm on your cell or smartphone to signal when you have 10- or 5-minutes left. If using visual support, most presentation applications, like Apple’s Keynote, have great timers built in. There are also countdown clocks on most smartphones. Whatever the technology you use to alert you, make sure it’s a personal alert…rather than a jarring and distracting interruption for the entire audience.
One last tip: practice with a timer. The only real way to get a feel for how you’re managing your time is to get on your feet and deliver the talk as you would before an actual audience. Plus, practice will boost your overall confidence and comfort when it comes time to speak.
Post by John Capecci; originally published on TalentGear.com.