Presentation qualities: time control

Hourglass, Time, Verinnen, Clock, Sand, Egg Timer

At times, it may seem that time waits for a woman to get dressed, but when it comes to conference talks, the chair will give you a dressing-down if you exceed your time.

The chair of your session HAS to keep to time. Tea breaks don’t wait; the start of a session in another conference room does not wait; the line of speakers for the morning or afternoon session cannot be compressed to compensate for the talkative few who did not keep to their time allotment.

Running late in a talk usually starts a cascade of events resulting in the destruction of hours of carefully planned preparation. When the presenter discovers that half the slides still need to be presented minutes before the end, panic sets in with the following disastrous effects:

1) No more smooth transition between slides. The narration at the beginning of each slide is cut short to a skimpy “and next”, “and here”.

2) The graphics that featured your results get the rushed treatment. The X and Y axis are not even mentioned, you frantically wave the red dot of the laser pointer on one or two peaks or valleys on your bar diagram and skip many of the details that were essential to understand the diagram.

3) By now, no more eye contact with the audience. Your eyes are on the screen full time.

4) Layers of information flash in front of the dazed audience as you click through them at a speed that prevents understanding. The audience can no longer keep in sync with what they see and what they hear.

5) Your conclusion slide is read. The nice closing statement you had planned for your big confident finish eye to eye with the audience never even made it past your lips.

The overall result:

• No time for questions

• No questions from the shell-shocked audience bombarded with words.

• Nobody interested to network with you, not after the way you treated your audience.


So how do you control time?

Rehearse so that you end 30 seconds before the time you were given for your presentation.
Over-rehearse what you say at the beginning and at the end to avoid time-wasting rambling and project a dynamic image of yourself.
Decide how much time each slide deserves and adjust the content of any slide that requires more time than you can afford.
Stage the slide content in layers to explain better AND faster AND in a more structured way.
Use timers for rehearsal or during the presentation. Some presentation remotes have built-in timers that vibrate when you are close to finish. While I present, I place my large screen iPad Pro on a seat in the front row to display the remaining time thanks to a nifty timer app named pClock.

I am also working on a new timer app which will be given to the people who attend my presentation skills class.

Author: Jean-Luc Lebrun

This century: Writer on Scientific writing skills and scientific presentation skills, MC for scientific events, Podcaster, Radio Consultant, Trainer for Research Institutes in Engineering and Life Sciences, Singapore, and in European doctoral schools, as well as in South East Asia Universities. Last Century: Apple Computer, Advanced Technology Group, Technology Information manager. Then Director of the Apple-ISS Research Centre - a joint venture between Apple Computer and the National University of Singapore. Producer of TV program on IT for Singapore Channel 5.