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The Trick to Timing Presentations

The Trick to Timing Presentations


    I loathe timed presentations.

    A presentation should take as much time as it takes to do what it needs to and no longer. That, of course, assumes that that it needs to do is worth doing but let’s pretend that it is.

    That said, it’s important to know how long your rehearsed presentation is going to take when you perform it live. The best way to find out, of course, is to give the presentation so that you know how long it will take the next time.

    The second best way is to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. You should do this anyway, of course – but many of my clients tell me they don’t have the time to do this. (I’m not sure I agree about that – I think there’s a different reason for most of them not rehearsing but that’s for an other blog.)  So what we need, then is some rule of thumb to figure out how long an unrehearsed presentation is going to take.

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    (Note: delivering an unrehearsed presentation is asking for trouble – no professionals do it – so “caveat emptor” here!)

    Timing Your Slides

    Let’s assume you can go through your slides on the train, or on the plane as you travel to the conference. You flick through your slides, saying to yourself:

    “Yes, I know what I’m going to say here.”

    …and then pushing the ‘next’ button. The first absolute rule for figuring out how long your presentation will actually take is not to do this. Don’t say to yourself that you know what to say it – actually say it. Unless you want fellow passengers to think you’re very odd you’ll not be able to do this out loud, but you can do it silently at least.

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    The key thing is that your lips should move.

    Why?

    Because you think a heck of a lot faster than you speak. If you just say things in your head you’ll not get much of a clue about how long you’ll take to say it out loud. I’ve read various estimates of exactly how much faster you think than speak and the maximum I’ve ever seen is about tenfold!

    Use Your Smartphone – Part One

    Pretty much all smartphones these days have a stopwatch function with a lap timer facility. Use it. Time how long each individual slide takes. When you’ve gone through your slides, round each one up to the nearest quarter of a minute. That’s not always right for every slide but I’ve found that it averages out nicely. Rounding up allows for the time it takes to move from one slide to the next and (at least in part) to the fact that in real life you’ll speak more slowly than you do when you’re just going through the motions… or at least you should.

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    Use Your Smartphone – Part Two

    Metronome apps are inexpensive…so get one!

    This is a slightly artificial trick but it’s worked nicely with some of my clients. When you’ve got a moment to spare, give a practice presentation. It’s easier if you can get a friend to help you here, but it can be done on your own if you need to… set the metronome going and play with it until you find the approximation to your normal delivery rate. For what it’s worth, mine is quite fast at around 120 words per minute.

    Once you’ve got that sorted out, the rest is easy… The next time you go do the silent rehearsal (step one, above), you can set the metronome to your usual speed and plug your headphones to your ear. That way you’ll be kept much closer to your ‘real’ delivery tempo and you’ll have a much better idea of how long your presentation will run for.

    Simple, eh?

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    But don’t forget – nothing beats ‘proper’ rehearsal.

    (Photo credit: Clock via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

    7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

    When giving a presentation or speech, you have to engage your audience effectively in order to truly get your point across. Unlike a written editorial or newsletter, your speech is fleeting; once you’ve said everything you set out to say, you don’t get a second chance to have your voice heard in that specific arena.

    You need to make sure your audience hangs on to every word you say, from your introduction to your wrap-up. You can do so by:

    1. Connecting them with each other

    Picture your typical rock concert. What’s the first thing the singer says to the crowd after jumping out on stage? “Hello (insert city name here)!” Just acknowledging that he’s coherent enough to know where he is is enough for the audience to go wild and get into the show.

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    It makes each individual feel as if they’re a part of something bigger. The same goes for any public speaking event. When an audience hears, “You’re all here because you care deeply about wildlife preservation,” it gives them a sense that they’re not just there to listen, but they’re there to connect with the like-minded people all around them.

    2. Connect with their emotions

    Speakers always try to get their audience emotionally involved in whatever topic they’re discussing. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, such as using statistics, stories, pictures or videos that really show the importance of the topic at hand.

    For example, showing pictures of the aftermath of an accident related to drunk driving will certainly send a specific message to an audience of teenagers and young adults. While doing so might be emotionally nerve-racking to the crowd, it may be necessary to get your point across and engage them fully.

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    3. Keep going back to the beginning

    Revisit your theme throughout your presentation. Although you should give your audience the credit they deserve and know that they can follow along, linking back to your initial thesis can act as a subconscious reminder of why what you’re currently telling them is important.

    On the other hand, if you simply mention your theme or the point of your speech at the beginning and never mention it again, it gives your audience the impression that it’s not really that important.

    4. Link to your audience’s motivation

    After you’ve acknowledged your audience’s common interests in being present, discuss their motivation for being there. Be specific. Using the previous example, if your audience clearly cares about wildlife preservation, discuss what can be done to help save endangered species’ from extinction.

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    Don’t just give them cold, hard facts; use the facts to make a point that they can use to better themselves or the world in some way.

    5. Entertain them

    While not all speeches or presentations are meant to be entertaining in a comedic way, audiences will become thoroughly engaged in anecdotes that relate to the overall theme of the speech. We discussed appealing to emotions, and that’s exactly what a speaker sets out to do when he tells a story from his past or that of a well-known historical figure.

    Speakers usually tell more than one story in order to show that the first one they told isn’t simply an anomaly, and that whatever outcome they’re attempting to prove will consistently reoccur, given certain circumstances.

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    6. Appeal to loyalty

    Just like the musician mentioning the town he’s playing in will get the audience ready to rock, speakers need to appeal to their audience’s loyalty to their country, company, product or cause. Show them how important it is that they’re present and listening to your speech by making your words hit home to each individual.

    In doing so, the members of your audience will feel as if you’re speaking directly to them while you’re addressing the entire crowd.

    7. Tell them the benefits of the presentation

    Early on in your presentation, you should tell your audience exactly what they’ll learn, and exactly how they’ll learn it. Don’t expect them to listen if they don’t have clear-cut information to listen for. On the other hand, if they know what to listen for, they’ll be more apt to stay engaged throughout your entire presentation so they don’t miss anything.

    Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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