You’re at a conference, walking around. Your feet are throbbing, begging you to rest them. You look at the conference agenda. There’s a talk starting right about now, so you decide to attend. The talk is slated for 15 minutes – more than enough time to let your feet rest.
You look at your watch. The talk hasn’t started yet. People are buzzing around, setting up projectors and plugging in laptops. You find a seat and wait for the talk to begin. Other conference attendees filter in. You look at your watch again. Finally, 8 minutes after the talk was supposed to begin, it starts.
The presenter slogs through the presentation, seemingly unaware of the time. The talk ends – thankfully. You look at your watch. 20 minutes have passed by. The presentation was supposed to be 15 minutes. 5 minutes over the allotted time.
The presentation started 8 minutes late. The presentation was 5 minutes over time. That’s 13 minutes. You might think, “What’s the big deal? It’s just 13 minutes.” But 13 minutes late means the next talk will start late, and the next one, and the next one. This has an additive effect. Now the entire conference agenda is thrown off-kilter. While your feet are rested, your mind isn’t. You’re annoyed.
If you ever present at a conference, here are 3 tips to make sure you’re not the reason the conference agenda goes off the rails.
Don’t wing your speech at a conference – always practice. That’s a recipe for a speech going over time. With a timer, practice what you’re going to say. Keep track of the time every time you practice the speech and keep doing that until you’re within time.
If you’re given 15 minutes for a presentation (not including Q&A), don’t speak for 15 minutes. You’ll probably go over time. You may adlib some things on the day of the presentation. Those are extra words that you didn’t take into account when practicing. Instead, aim to finish at least a couple minutes early; shoot for 13 minutes. That way, if you adlib, you’ll still be within time. Also, you’ll leave more time for Q&A.
If your presentation started late, even through no fault of your own, consider shortening your presentation even further to stay within time. Perhaps you don’t spend as much time on one section as you did when you were practicing. Only do this if you’re still able to get your point across in the shortened time, though. Don’t sacrifice audience comprehension for variables that were out of your control.
Neil Thompson is an engineer, patent agent, speaker, and writer. He also has a YouTube channel where he interviews STEM professionals who engage in public speaking.
Follow Neil Thompson on Twitter@teachthegeek