Time To Talk

What we wouldn't give for just a bit more time...
What we wouldn’t give for just a bit more time…
Image Credit: Earls37a

Time, time, time – where has all of our time gone? When we’ve been asked to give a speech, there are a number of things that we can control. We control our content, we try to control our introduction, and we can control a Q&A session. However, the one thing that we can’t control is how much time we have to give our speech. This is where we can all use some help.

Reconfirm, Reconfirm, Reconfirm

Yes, I know this seems sorta silly – after all, they invited you to come and deliver a speech right? There should be no reason for you to have to reconfirm. However, it turns out that this may be one of the most important things that you do in order to ensure that you’ll be able to give a good speech.

Not only do you want to reconfirm that they still want you to give a speech, but it is also a good idea to reconfirm how long they want you to speak for. Sure, you may have had some discussions with them about the length of your speech, but things may have changed and they may not have informed you. It’s best to know this before you take the stage.

Plan In Advance To Cut, Cut, Cut

What you have to say is so important that there is no way that the amount of time that you’ll be given to speak will ever be reduced, right? Well, actually no – despite the importance of public speaking there’s a good chance that you’ll be asked to cut your speaking time. Every time that you are invited to deliver a speech, you need to plan ahead and assume that there is a good chance that you’ll be asked to use less time.

Armed with this knowledge, you need to use it when you are creating your speech. What seems to work the best is to break your speech up into “modules”. What this means is that when you discover that you’ll have half the time that you thought you would, you can simply drop one or more modules from your speech and you should now have a speech that will fit within the time that you’ve been given.

Communicate With Your Audience

All too often what happens is that the time starts to get away from the people who are running the event. What this means for you is that your start time is probably going to start to slip away. Your audience is going to realize that you’re starting late and they are going to be very worried that you plan on talking long past the time that they thought that you’d be wrapping things up.

As the speaker you need to solve this problem right off the bat. What this means is that before you start your speech you need to explain to your audience that there have been some timing issues and you’ll be presenting a shortened version of your speech. Note that you need to be professional about this – don’t throw anyone else under the bus by calling them out by name. Instead, keep it generic and just reassure your audience that things will wrap up when they should.

What All Of This Means For You

There are many things about a speech that you are in control of. However, the amount of time that you have to deliver the speech in is not always one of these things. What this means for you is that prior to giving a speech, you need to take steps in order to prepare for however much time you’ll really have. One of the benefits of public speaking is that with advance planning, this is something that we can easily do.

This all starts by having you talk with the organizer of the event that you’ll be talking at. Reconfirm how long they want you to talk for and make sure that there are no surprises. Before you arrive to speak, you need to assume that you’ll be asked to cut your speech. This always seems to happen. Design your speech so that you can easily discard parts on the fly. Finally, as the speaker it’s your responsibility to let your audience know that you’ll be using less time than was planned. This will allow them to adjust how they listen to your speech.

We never have all of the time in the world. This means that we need to be able to adjust how much time we plan on using to deliver our next speech. Being ready to adjust how much time we’ll use means that we’ll be seen as a flexible speaker and that ends up making life easier for everyone!

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

Question For You: Is there any amount of time that would be too short for you to give a speech in?

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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 www.Toastmasters.org. 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

As a speaker, because of the importance of public speaking we would all like to be in charge of our time. We’d like to be the one who controls how long we stay on the stage – not someone else. However, this is not the case – somebody invited us to speak and they are in charge of how long we take. This is the way that it will always be, but it turns out that we do have some control over how much time we have – if only we know how to take control…