Chris Croft
Tips of the Month Archive

Presentation Skills Tip 4


Overcoming nerves

Microsleeps and what you can do about them

Making your presentation interactive

Adjusting your timing

Powerpoint pros and cons

Making your talk interactive

Powerpoint what could go wrong?

Powerpoint advanced tips


Your opening minute

How to remember your talk

Adjusting your timing.

One of the most difficult things about giving a talk is to get the timing right. Finishing a bit too early isn't too bad, but finishing late is a HUGE crime! This is partly because there may be another speaker after you, or the audience may have other appointments after your talk, but mainly because psychologically as listeners we pace ourselves, planning to collapse with "listening exhaustion" at the finish time. If there's an extra 10 minutes that we didn't expect then that's quite a killer, and you'll find that your audience get really restless and you've lost everything you've gained during your talk.

So - what can be done?

Tactic 1: Run through your talk beforehand (this won't totally solve the problem because you may go quicker when more nervous, or you may have extra ideas on the day because your brain is in overdrive, thus taking longer than planned). But it's a start.

Tactic 2: Put in some optional subjects or slides which you can miss out if necessary. Of course these will have to be fairly near the end, and you'll have to make decisions on the fly, but you can do that. If you miss out a slide or two the audience mustn't know, so you have to plan the flow quite carefully, and either don't mention the optional parts on the finishing summary or have two different summaries. If using PowerPoint you'll need to have a hyperlink that you can click on to miss out a page.

These optional slides might not be content, but might be an activity - something like "discuss in pairs some suggestions on how we could improve the way we..." or a quiz or a worked example of the theory that you've been explaining.

Tactic 3: Change the speed of delivery of the last few slides. Have an approximate "arrival time" so that you know if you're on schedule or running late by the third-from-last slide. Then, if you've got plenty of time, put in an extra illustrative example, or ask the audience for examples / solutions etc. If you don't have much time just give them a quick summary of the slide, or as a last resort say "this last subject is shown in more detail in your notes" (providing it is)

Of course, best of all is to do all three of the above. Don't worry, they are easier than they sound, and if you get them right you'll have one thing less to worry about on the day. You can forget timing worries and concentrate on content, which is what after all you're there for.

onwards and upwards!

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