Top Tips for Timing Your Talk

In most instances of public speaking, proper timing is essential. From showing the courtesy of starting on time to the required finishing on time, the way you prepare for and use this highly valuable time is crucial for your listeners benefit and your success. Anybody who considers themselves an accomplished speaker will be aware of the importance of timing their presentation.

Is ‘Highly valuable’ an overstatement? Have you thought of it this way? Think of a situation where you are giving a presentation to a group of business associates during the company’s working hours. Imagine fifty highly paid colleagues away from their respective positions for your 45-minute presentation. It probably took them 15 minutes to get to the meeting room, 15 minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee after your presentation and 15 minutes back to their offices. That is a total of 75 working hours to the company, not to mention the time spent by the company training exec. who probably spent several hours setting the whole thing up – now, how valuable has your presentation just become?

So, with that in mind, it becomes essential to plan your talk to fit the allotted time slot to ensure that you make all your points without going over time. (In the above example, every time you take an extra 10 minutes on extraneous material you are effectively costing the company a composite day’s work!)

Again, just to emphasize the point, preparation is the key.

Divide your talk into 3 major sections:

The Introduction

The Main Body

The Conclusion (or Summary)

When drafting your notes make sure you are aware of the passage of time by inserting ‘Time check Symbols’ at intervals. Incidentally, make sure you have an easy visibility watch where you can see it, as not all rooms have a clock within sight of the speaker.

There is no hard and fast rule about the proportions of these three segments and this will also depend on the overall length of the presentation, but can be illustrated by using a famous quote attributed to a preacher who described the sequence as;

“Tell them what you are going to tell them.” “Tell them.” “Tell them what you have just told them.”

Beware of making your introduction too long as this may mean that your all-important conclusion will have to be shortened, maybe losing your ‘call to action’ or final convincing statements.

If you plan on having a ‘Questions’ session allow plenty of time, but be aware that this area can be pretty unpredictable, particularly if this is the first time you have made the presentation. It would be sensible to have a little ‘spare material’, ideally an appropriate anecdote that adds credence to your subject in case there are only few questions (or none at all!).

When practicing or rehearsing, use your ‘Timecheck Symbols’ to keep track and remember your actual delivery will probably be a little slower than any practice session, so allow for this. However, should you finish a little sooner than expected, don’t be tempted to ‘pad out’ your talk with worthless information or fill in with jokes. This is bad practice and very obvious to your listeners.

Do so and you could have your audience leave the room with the feelings expressed by one disgruntled listener who, when asked by a latecomer, “Has he finished his speech yet?”, responded, “Yes, about ten minutes ago, but he is still talking”!

Promise me you will use these simple pointers and I can promise you that your next presentation or talk becomes a ‘High Value’ event.

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Tony James, Public Speaking Coach, Author of the Be a Better Speaker system invites you to visit his ongoing informative Blog at => for more free hints and tips to speed you on your way to becoming a confident Public Speaker. Article Source:

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