The Value Of Time – What A Public Speaker Needs To Know

Everyone's time is valuable…
Everyone’s time is valuable…

How long should your next speech be? Or maybe the more important question is, how long is too long? When we are asked to give a speech, there is an implied amount of time that we are being asked to fill. We are generally part of a bigger program and this is why time is so important: you need to know how to use your time in the right way…

How You See Time

I speak from experience when I say that how I see time as a speaker is probably very different from how the event planner that has set up my speaking opportunity sees it. We all know about the importance of public speaking and to do my part I know that I have a specific amount of information that I want to communicate to my audience. I’m going to accomplish that in my speech. The trick is to figure out how much time I’ll have in which to do it!

Often times I find myself as part of a program of speakers. This means that time has all of sudden become even more important. Not only do I need to be careful and use up only the time that has been allocated to me, but my fellow speakers had better do the same.

This means that I always take the time to ask how long I’m going to have to give my speech. Trust me, this information is more important than any presentation tips that you might be given. I’m also careful to ask once again when I arrive where I’ll be giving the speech. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that my speaking time has shrunk due to issues that have popped up.

Keep in mind that when you are actually speaking, there is a trick to wining the favor of your audience. In order to win the eternal gratitude of your audience, all you have to do is to finish just a little bit early. Keep in mind that they’ll be upset with you if you screw up and finish just a little bit late!

How They See Time

The person who invited you to give a speech sees time completely differently than you do. Whereas you just see the time that has been allocated to your speech, they see the time that the event is going to be taking up as a whole. Your speech is just a small part of something much larger.

This means that when you find yourself playing the role of event planner, you need to change how you view time. As you arrange for speakers to participate in your event, you need to make sure that you clearly communicate to them how long you want them to talk for. Don’t allow there to be any confusion!

Speakers are notoriously fickle when it comes to making commitments and then following through. As an event organizer, you are going to need to make sure that you reach out and confirm their participation in your event roughly a week before you need to have them show up.

Speakers struggle to keep track of time while they are speaking. This means that as the event planner you are going to be in charge of making sure that they know how much time they’ve used up. This can be done via hand signals or the holding up of signs from the back of the room. Make sure that they know how much time they have before they have to wrap things up.

Finally, as the event organizer you are the ultimate decider of when a presentation is over. If a speaker is not wrapping up and it’s time to move on to the next presenter, then you’re going to have to step in (yes, I know that it’s rude) and thank the speaker and then tell everyone that it’s time for the next speaker to take the stage.

What All Of This Means For You

No matter what role you are playing in your next speaking event, speaker or planner, you need to make sure that you have a firm grasp of time. If you don’t make the effort to control time, then you’ll be doing your audience a great disservice – no matter how good their listening skills are.

As a speaker it is your job to maximize the benefits of public speaking. To do this, you need to find out how much time has been allocated for your speech. If no time limit has been set, then you need to both set one and stick to it. As a planner you need to tell each speaker how much time they have to deliver their speech. You then need to manage each speech and ensure that the speaker wraps things up on time.

Time is the most precious thing that both a speaker and an audience have. When you give a speech or arrange for speeches to be given, you need to take the time to make sure that only the time that has been allocated will be used. Remember, if you can end things early, your audience will love you forever!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: What’s the maximum amount of time one speaker should be allocated to talk during a full day program?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela – we all recognize the names. I believe that we can all pretty much agree that each of these famous individuals were fantastic speakers who helped all of us to improve our listening skills because we really wanted to hear what they had to say. But the real question is – why? What did they know about speaking that we need to learn? It turns out that there are two traits that all great speeches share.