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8 Terrific Timing Tips for Speakers

As the expression goes, timing is everything—right? As speakers, so much of what we do revolves around timing in one way or another. From one perspective, we have to consider timing and cadence as key elements of our delivery. We speak faster and with more animation when we are excited, and slower and more deliberately when we’re serious.

From another perspective, timing is even more important because we have the added constraint of making sure that we deliver compelling content that fits comfortably within the time constraints our host has given us. Every one of the tips below has to do with some aspect of timing as it relates to our presentations. There are more things that could be said about timing (who knew there would be so many!), but these eight are truly beneficial to every speaker.

  1. When you’re preparing your presentation, separate it into 3 sections: the introduction and conclusion, the body of your presentation, and the Q&A section. (I know that not all presentations have time for Q&A, but it’s always good to have an idea of how long it might take you to answer a few questions.
  2. Analyze each section to determine how much time it’s going to take you to get through that section. Time yourself with each individual section too, and make sure your minutes add up!
  3. Make sure to provide yourself with content options in case you need to make adjustments on the fly. For example, if you realize you’re going to run out of time, already know which section of your presentation can be shortened or maybe even eliminated.
  4. Tape yourself speaking your entire presentation from start to finish to make sure it fits. This can be done with audio or video—with today’s cell phones the choice is yours. Listening to yourself is going to either confirm or deny that you’ve sufficiently and comfortably covered the topic of your presentation.
  5. Know the time markers for your presentation before you step on stage. Then, remember to check the clock when you’re done with each section to make sure you’re on time. For example, what time should it be when you’re done presenting the first section of the body of your presentation? If you’ve organized your presentation well, you’ll be on top of any adjustments that need to be made and you’ll be able to finish your presentation without rushing.
  6. Always try to arrive early for your presentation so you can double-check everything. Your host probably already has everything you need set up, but this just-in-case action can take care of any last-minute details that might interfere with your ability to start on time.
  7. Take advantage of Q&A time to make last minute onstage time adjustments. If you’re running short, answer fewer—or no—questions. If you end up with additional time, be prepared to answer a few more.
  8. Give your audience the gift of time by trying to time your finish a few minutes early. People have a tendency to get antsy when your time is almost up anyway, so make sure you’re done on time so people can leave on time. The people who enjoyed your presentation will be more likely to stick around to speak with you after as a result too. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Each one of these tips is good advice on its own, but together, they are a powerful team of strategies for creating an awesome presentation that fits perfectly within the time allotted!