Probably the most common and annoying thing I witness is a speaker making references to how much time he has left to speak. It just isn’t something that needs to come up. If we’re running short on time, chances are good that we’re presenting content of value (and if not, the snoring should give us a clue).Watched a speaker open with an off-hand comment that he “only had 17 minutes to present” (he was part of a program). He then talked for ten minutes and commented that he had but 15 minutes left. This convinced everyone in the audience of two things:
- He was bad at math
- He didn’t intend to abide by the time constraints
He made two more comments about being short on time (all told, he probably talked more than a half minute about how little time he had — or about 2.5% of his total talk). When he announced he had two minutes left, he had just finished point number one (of three — we knew this because he had three points on the handout. This is another reason handouts can be counter-productive). He then said he’d hurry through the rest, which he did. When he completed point three, he closed the book he was reading from and tucked his notes away, but still had his close to complete. He was clearly over time, and all his non-verbals said he was late, done, and grumpy about it. I began watching the crowd. Amazing thing — most of them had closed their notes/books and were fidgety, looking down instead of at the speaker, and had assumed positions of “checked out”. And it was the speaker’s fault. Entirely. And it happens day in and day out — I see it all the time.Only two people in the room should be aware of the time — the speaker and the sound board operator or emcee. It just adds nothing to the content or the message to harp on it or even bring it up. Any audience that isn’t paying a speaker to fill a time slot will be THRILLED to end early, so aim to do that. If the content isn’t just overwhelming the crowd and things start to run over, make the biggest point there is and quit. Everyone will be happy about that. But comments about closing, wrapping up, or how much time is left serves only to make an audience antsy.Probably the most egregious example of this I ever witnessed was a tag team of first-time presenters who, in their haste to make things entertaining, had produced a slideshow of pictures from the project they were introducing, and a home-made rap video about the project. It was cute. Almost. OK, tolerable. But the video was 2 minutes, there were at least 10 slides of pictures, their examples were tedious and repetitive (and the concept trivial to understand in the first place), and when a question was allowed to run amok and time ran short (it was a lunchtime presentation that HAD to end on time), the presentation came to a conclusion with the speakers looking at one another and shrugging with the comment, “Well, we didn’t get to the main points of our presentation, but we hope you enjoyed it and got a feel for what we’re about.“
Time is the speaker’s business, not the audience. Don’t comment about it. But honor and respect an audience’s time and don’t take advantage of the stage, either.