Thursday, December 19, 2013

When Presenting, Stay Within Your Time Limit

by Gilda Bonanno LLC
When you’re giving a presentation, it’s crucial that you don’t go over the time limit. 

Whether you’ve set it yourself or have agreed to a time limit set by the meeting organizer, you need to prepare so that you can cover your topic within that time limit.  No one will usually complain if you end a minute early, but the moment you go past your time limit, people will get restless and impatient.  

It’s disrespectful to ignore the time limit.  If you go over by ten minutes, what you’re really saying to the audience is, “what I have to say is so important that I really don’t care what it is that you’re missing while you sit here and listen to me.” And that’s not the message that you want to send to your audience and it certainly won’t help you keep their attention.

(Yes, the situation is different if you are running a discussion, negotiation or brainstorming session where everyone decides that more time is needed.  But what I’m talking about here is a presentation where you have a fixed amount of time and a fixed amount of information to convey within that time limit.)

The best way to determine how long it will take to deliver your content is to practice delivering it and time yourself, particularly if it’s the first time you’ve given this presentation.

There is no magic formula about how long it takes to present a certain number of slides.  It depends on how much information is on the slides, how long you take to explain it and whether you answer questions during your presentation or at the end. I’ve seen people spend an hour on one slide. I’ve also seen them deliver twenty slides in three minutes.

Cut out what you don’t need
Focus on what the audience needs to know, rather than everything you could possibly tell them.  Eliminate anything that’s not related to your message.  If  it doesn’t support or help the audience understand your message, eliminate it..

Keep extra material in your notes in case you get a question about it.  You can also send it to people before or after the presentation, but don’t clutter your presentation with extraneous information that wastes time. 

This is a difficult part of the process, especially if you’re an expert in your field.  There’s so much that you could say and that you want to share, but you don’t have the time.  So you have to be careful at choosing which facts, stories, examples, data, that you’re going to share and which ones you’re not.

Acknowledge that you are not covering everything
During your presentation, you can say, “in the interest of time, I’m not going to go into detail [on the design of this experiment, the process by which gathered this data, etc.].  If you’re interested, see me afterwards and I’ll share it with you.”

If you stay within your time limit when you’re presenting, the audience is more likely to pay attention and remember your message.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

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