Going over your time limit is unprofessional and annoys everyone; the audience, the next speaker, and whoever organised the whole thing. It may seem unimportant to you, but it could mean that your audience infers from you a sense of unreliability or arrogance. Either of which is a sure-fire way of sabotaging all your hard work.

Audiences hate it. Event organisers hate it. And the speakers who commit this crime probably do too (if they’re aware of it).

Temporal Distortion

Remember, when you get up there and actually deliver your piece, your perception of time can become change dramatically, slowing down or flying by. I ask speakers at my training sessions to say how long they thought they spoke for. They – and members of the audience – often get it wrong (under or over time) by up to a third of the time actually spent speaking.


Here’s how you keep to time:

  1. Rehearse, and note the time for each section, to keep you on track on the day itself.
  2. Get used to the flow and pace of delivering the whole thing out loud.

Execute these steps correctly and you will start to know the presentation, not just have learnt it. When you are at one with the material and don’t have to think too much about what comes next – regardless of which section you’re at – you can give your presentation in a relaxed, natural way. The bonus is that realising you’ve attained this zen-like state calms you down and boosts your confidence.

This achievement is vital because it allows you to shrink and expand your presentation, to move over – or elaborate on – each piece of information as required, in order to adapt what you’re delivering to the constraints of the time limit.

The Terminator

Keeping to the times you noted for each section enables you to finish your presentation within 30 seconds of the time limit. Or one that you impose on yourself e.g. you’re given a 30-minute slot but decide to deliver a twenty-minute piece (crafty – allows time for a decent Q+A). If you impose an unexpected time limit on yourself which you know you can hit accurately, you can state the precise duration of your talk at the start; finish at this stated time and the audience will infer a sense of reliability and professionalism. Obviously, announcing this glorious achievement could backfire (I always point it out, but then I’m a self-destructive, arrogant fool).

Finishing within 30 seconds of your time limit is a joy; for you, the audience and one very important person – whoever asked you to speak in the first place.

Related Bits ‘n’ Pieces

Here’s a video on keeping to your time limit

Time’s Up!

The PechaKucha Experience

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