Time Your Presentation Perfectly

This month’s question:

“How do I structure and time my speech to create an effective presentation? I’m afraid that my speech is too long, and I worry that I will lose the attention of audience members.”

Response from the editors:

Timing a speech is a crucial presentation skill. If your speech is too long you will lose your audience’s attention. And if it is too short, you might not cover all the significant points of your presentation. Use the following tips to structure and time your speech:

  • Divide your presentation into an introduction, body, conclusion and questions. The introduction, conclusion and questions each should take 10% of the time allocated for your speech. That leaves 70% of the allocated time for the main body of your presentation.
  • Designate the most time to the points that will provide the most value to your audience. Tip: To stay on target, create visuals that convey your message at a glance. Good visuals will help with paring down the time spent on long explanations.
  • Look for parts of the speech where you are repeating yourself or being long-winded. Simplify and cut down your presentation as much as possible.
  • Ask for feedback on your final presentation. Ask a friend or co-worker to provide constructive criticism that will allow you to improve your speech. Learning how to time a speech comes with practice.

August’s Poll Results:

In the August poll, we asked “When an audience member asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, how do you handle the situation?” Sixty-three percent of you say “I don’t know” and offer to find the answer later. The rest of you respond with “I don’t know” and ask if anyone else in the audience can provide a brief answer. Both are good strategies.

But what do you do if no one in the audience has a question? Tip: You answer a question you have prepared in advance by saying “An important question that often comes up is …”

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Delivered each month, American Speaker Forum offers you public-speaking advice and tips for wowing your audience during your next presentation. This resource also offers you a way to ask for feedback on your next speaking engagement and to share your own experience with your colleagues.


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