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Timing Is Everything


“Kelly, I know you’re a professional.  I know you’ll finish on time.” 

That’s what Jill said to me yesterday as I was setting up before I spoke at the Atlanta Women’s Network.

One of the past presidents of the organization was standing near by and said, “Yeah, we’ve had some challenges with speakers ending on time before.” 

“Yeah, I’ve had timing cards, been waving them in the air,” Jill said demonstrating with her arm fully extended and wildly waving back and forth, “and still they don’t stop!  That’s what’s good about professional speakers.  They know how to end on time.”


Do You End on Time?

Whatever the occasion – whether a presentation to an audience of your peers, an industry conference, or a sales demo – it’s vitally important to know how much time you’ve been allotted and to finish on time.

Ending on time says you respect the person who organized the meeting and want to honor their schedule.

Ending on time says you respect the audience’s time and know that they have other priorities that may not include you.

Ending on time speaks to your professionalism as business person.


What Happens When You Don’t End on Time?

When was the last time that a presentation you were in went long?  Do you remember how you felt?

Were you obsessing about the next meeting you had to get to?

Were you distracted by wondering if the next person who was going to be in the room was going to have enough time to set up for their meeting?

Did you find yourself growingly increasingly concerned that you were going to be at the end of the lunch line?

Were you sweating the bio break you desperately needed?

Did you find that you had trouble concentrating on what the speaker was saying because of all the other things running through your head?

If you feel that way when you’re in the audience, then why would you ever put your audience through the same scenario?


But What I Have to Say Is Important

I believe in giving the audience valuable information.  But you have to say it in the time allotted.

If you only have 30 minutes, you can’t tell them everything you know.  Ask yourself, what can I tell them that will make a difference.  Tell them that.


How to Keep on Time

Cut Content

Instead of providing five point, provide three.  Instead of telling two stories, tell one.  Shorten the stories you do tell so they more succinctly  make your point.

Cut out anything that’s not important.  The justification start.  Profusely thanking the audience for coming.  Let your valuable content speak to your credibility.  Let your valuable content be your “thank you” for their time.

Cut out parts that you may love but that don’t add to the audience’s learning.  It’s painful, but necessary to honor the time you’ve been given.

For more tips on cutting, check out this blog post.


Cover to the Most Important Information First

By telling the audience the most important points first, you’ll gain their gratitude throughout the presentation.  Plus, if you run out of time, you know you’ve given them the important stuff they care about most.


Rehearse for Timing

Practice your presentation.  Say the words out loud.  Tell the stories the way you’ll tell them.  Practice pausing when you know they’ll laugh.  Imagine them responding to the questions you pose of the audience.  Click through your slides.  Demonstrate the product as you plan to do it with the prospect.  See what the timing is when you put all the elements together.  Use the stopwatch on your phone.  Use a clock.  Record yourself and video and see how much time you took.

Don’t assume you know how long the presentation is going to take.  Rehearse and find out as best you can what the timing will be.  If you’re long, go back and cut some more.


Questions that Take You Off the Path

Sometimes, in your interaction with an audience, you’ll get taken off track in your presentation.  Be ready for this, especially if you have a highly interactive session where people are engaged and participating.  Have a few phrases ready to guide you back to the planned presentation.

“I’ll cover that in the next section if you can hang with me a little longer.”

“That’s outside the scope of what we’ll talk about today.”

“I want to respect your time so let’s go back to the original topic so we cover what was promised we’d cover.”

Your audience will appreciate the interaction and appreciate being politely led back on course.


Plan for a Method to Follow Up

Have a way for people to get more information from you.  Blog posts.  Newsletter.  Website.  Contact information.  Stick around after the presentation (as long as you’re out of the way of the people who have the room next).  Twitter.  Whatever works for you.  Just be prepared and be able to offer it to those who want more help.


Timing Is Everything

Ending on time is important to your professional and in honoring the time given to you by those organizing a meeting and hearing your presentation.  Be diligent with yourself so that the value you bring will shine through and you’ll be remembered for all the right reasons.


And for the record, I didn’t let Jill down.  I finished on time.

What Do You Do to Ensure You End on Time?

Tell us in the comments below!