You’ve been offered a 60-minute timeslot to present to a group of stakeholders but have 90 minutes of content you want to cover — or worse yet, only 30 minutes. How do you make your message resonate with your audience while not feeling rushed or pressed for time? We offer our best tips for managing your time during a presentation while keeping your audience engaged and talking points heard.
Rehearse and then rehearse again
At a minimum, you should be practicing your presentation between five and 10 times. The goal is not to repeat the same dialogue word for word each time but rather find ways to say something differently or more succinctly each time. You’ll want to not only figure out how long each slide will take to cover, but also when and where to pivot if things don’t go as planned. Stick to the rule of thirds: Spend one-third of your time planning, one-third designing, and one-third rehearsing.
Be ready to cut it short
Life happens, especially when others are in control. Maybe participants are late getting back from a session break, the presenter before you runs long, or the inevitable technical issue happens. If you outline your presentation with key points and sub-points, you should be able to skip along more quickly by only covering the key points when short on time. What’s more, it’s better to engage your audience and encourage questions throughout than finish the presentation. By coming across as the expert in the room, you open the door to scheduling time at a later date with those who want to discuss points not covered during the allotted time.
The best way to avoid the unavoidable is to show up early to your designated location so setup doesn’t factor into your presentation time, and if it doesn’t take that long, give that time to the next presenter for their setup. Simply put, if you’re arriving or finishing on time, you’re running late. Plus, the added bonus of arriving early is you get to know your audience a little bit and find out what’s at the top of their mind. These are golden moments you can integrate into your presentation.
During rehearsal, you’ll quickly get a sense if your presentation is too long or too short. Be realistic about your personal speaking habits. Do you tend to speed up when you’re actually presenting? Do you pause a lot? Do you know if this audience loves to ask questions? Consider those real-world situations as you try to edit your deck. Some extra tips: Don’t linger on a slide for too long; make your point and move on to keep your energy high. Along the same lines, don’t try and cram everything you know into the presentation. Stick to your key points and anecdotes to make sure people are really absorbing the content. Think quality, not quantity.
Never count on a clock being in the room to manage your time in the moment of your presentation. Have your phone (silenced, of course) on the podium ready to glance at, appoint someone in the back of the room to give you cues when you are running out of time, or even discretely glance at your watch while taking a sip of water. Even though you’ve rehearsed enough to know how the time will pan out, taking an obvious break to check the time can be a big distraction.
What time constraints do you run into when making a presentation?