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Public Speaking Dilemma: What To Do When You Don't Have Enough Time
Do you have a standard hour-length presentation, but your host can only spare a half hour? Are you in the middle of a presentation when you realize that, due to a late start or abundant questions, you are running out of time?
No matter what your topic, always be flexible and ready to cut short your session (or ready to lengthen, as the case may be). Here are some ways to make sure your presentation always fits the time slot.
Pointer #1: Use a timed outline
When you create your presentation outline, include time estimates next to each section (I like to add mine in red to make them easier to spot on the page).
A brief, one-page bulleted outline (or two pages double-sided) will be easier to time than a long, rambling novel written in paragraphs.
Practice your presentation and jot down time estimates as you go (two minutes for opening, five minutes for section I, seven minutes for section II, etc.) When you get to the end, add up all the time and determine whether you should add to or subtract from any sections to make it all fit into the allotted time slot.
If you have to edit severely to fit into a different time frame and your presentation will be adversely affected, you might want to develop separate self-contained presentations for short, medium and long time slots.
(If you are a PowerPoint user, see the book "Beyond Bullet Points" for instruction on creating a PowerPoint that serves different timing needs.)
Pointer #2: Shift information depending on its priority
If you notice that you are running out of time while in the middle of a presentation, you may have to shift some of your content around. If you have important points at the end of the presentation, now is the time to bring them forward. As soon as you notice the time crunch, start changing the order of your sections.
When creating and practicing your presentation, it's always a good idea to think ahead about how you would handle this situation. The layout of your bulleted outline should make it easy to see which sections to leave out, move up or move down.
If you have to leave out something that you feel is important, gather business cards from the audience and offer to e-mail them additional content.
Pointer #3: Supplement with handouts
There's usually some information that we want to share, but that we don't necessarily want to include in our live presentation. You might have some relevant articles to supplement your workshop, or you might have charts and graphs that you didn't have time for or the technology to project.
Use handouts wisely. If the material does not need to be reviewed during your presentation, then leave handouts at the back of the room for the audience to pick up on the way out. If you choose to put them on seats before you begin, be aware that your audience may spend half the time reading and not listening to you.
Your handouts should always include your contact information and a link to your website, if you have one. Make sure all resources and references are clear and easy to read; use graphics if appropriate and leave a lot of white space on the page. Don't overload handouts with text; make them concise and relevant to your presentation. Otherwise, they will end up in the recycling bin!
Follow these suggestions, and you will always be prepared, no matter how much (or little) time you have.
About the Author: Lisa Braithwaite is a public speaking and presentation skills coach based in Santa Barbara, California. Find your voice and regain your confidence with public speaking coaching! Sign up for my newsletter and find out about my free consultation by visiting www.coachlisab.com.