I watched a colleague give a (useful) seminar at a lunch-n-learn.  She’s an experienced practitioner from an academic setting who is absolutely an expert in the field.  Most of the audience were solo-preneurs who were spending their own time (and a little bit of money) to get something useful for their businesses.While the content was of use, the presentation was packed — too much content for the time allowed.  This is a common mistake for knowledge experts.  But time is ALWAYS the speaker’s responsibility.  And ending on time is perhaps the first unbreakable rule of speaking.  Here are some of the spoken comments this speaker made about time (with my response):

  • If I had more time… (If you had prepared correctly for the time you did have…)
  • I’m going to be running over… (Apparently so, and no one in your audience can do anything about it and we’re not happy about it.)
  • We’re past time.  I’ll just take questions for another five minutes. (I thought you said we were past time?)
  • I’m completely out of time, but it’s your fault (laughing) — you asked good questions! (Did you not plan for questions?  And is it YOUR time, or your audience’s time?)
  • Can I take just a little more time? (Can I realistically say no?  Didn’t think so.)

Couple that with a VERY long introduction (self-given) that ate up (too much) time, and you realize quickly the session was not about the audience.  (Rule #1 anyone?)Once you’ve started speaking, the only people that should be allowed to ask for more time are the audience members.  If they beg you to stay, then by all means do so, once you’ve allowed an exit for those that may not want to (popular vote and a few loud “Yes, please talk more!” does not mean everyone wants to stay.)  Have checkpoints and material you can omit easily (without them knowing) to adjust your speaking time.  Don’t subject everyone to questions (you shouldn’t end with questions, anyway) and please don’t ever talk about time in front of the audience.

Control time effectively.  Don’t run over.