Timing a Technical Presentation

Timing a Technical Presentation

Timing a Technical Presentation

An acquaintance recently recounted an instance from a technical conference she attended. I won’t reveal the conference, of course!

The keynote speaker went through a bevy of text-laden slides. It was difficult to read and listen at the same time. It was obvious the speaker wasn’t keeping track of time, because he finished his talk after his allotted time. When he was done, he asked whether he had time for questions. He did not.

Don’t be that guy.

Especially at conferences, there’s an agenda. Conference organizers stress constantly about sticking to schedule. Someone going over time may mean someone else has less time to present. Imagine putting a presentation together thinking you had 15 minutes, only to be told to cut it to 10 minutes because someone talked too long. If you’re already nervous about public speaking, your nerves likely won’t be soothed with such a request.

It’s disrespectful to the organizers. Conferences take months to plan, and all that planning comes down to the few days of the conference. Nothing hardly goes according to plan, but presenters sticking to time is something within their control. Not doing it just gives organizers something else to worry about.

Not only that, but it’s disrespectful to the audience to go over time. If they stay until the end of your presentation, that may mean missing the start of another presentation.

Prefer to be a respectful presenter? Practice your presentations to leave a buffer for questions. Let’s say you have 15 minutes to present. Practice so that you finish within 13 minutes. That way, you have 2 minutes for questions and answers. If you don’t receive any questions, you can either add something you didn’t say during the presentation or you can end the presentation early. No one’s ever complained about a presentation ending too soon, after all. Better yet, if you’re ending early, reiterate your call to action (what you’d like audience members to do after the presentation). Reiteration infers importance. Importance infers action.

Practicing to time also helps you figure out the best way to present the information. When speaking off the cuff, the presentation may not come out as clearly as you had hoped.

Be respectful. Finish within time!