What do you do when:
- Your talk goes longer than you expected?
- Your host cuts your time?
Most presentations have a time limit. You’re allowed 20 minutes to speak, let’s say.
Here’s a quick tip when you’re in this type of emergency situation. Before every presentation, memorize the last slide number. (This was an idea that someone suggested at the PowerPoint Live conference in October.) When you have 5 minutes left to speak and you’ve promised a Question & Answer period, just type that slide number on your laptop, and press Enter to go to the last slide.
If you regularly overrun your allotted time, you need to practice and time those practices before you present. At least twice, preferably 3-4 times. Your final time will vary (mine tends to run shorter than when I practice), but you won’t be off by much.
What if no one asks any questions? Always have some extra content up your sleeve. I include an invisible link to other presentations, in case I run under time. (Rick Altman is a big advocate of this technique.) This helps for the opposite situation, when you end too early. I’ve used this successfully a number of times. It’s so embarrassing when you promise 1 hour—and after 50 minutes, no one has any more questions!
Here are some other ideas, some of which you need to prepare in advance:
- Ditch the slides and just talk. (Your audience will love you for it.) You’ll be able to make adjustments more easily and won’t feel the need to show every slide. You can speak for a few minutes and then turn the presentation into a discussion with the audience. You can easily stop whenever necessary by saying the time’s up.
- Always plan to take less time than you are given, to allow for Q&A.
- Use a menu-based presentation. Here are two tips on this topic: “Designing a web-style presentation” and Create a visual menu.” Then, just omit one of the menu items and go to your concluding slide.
- Give out your e-mail address and invite the audience to e-mail you if they have questions and for your complete notes.
- Tell the audience which topics you planned to cover and ask them which ones are most important to them. Then omit the others.
- If you tend to lose track of time, bring a countdown timer with large numbers on it and place it next to your laptop. (Don’t use an oven timer that buzzes when the time is up!) Some remotes have a timer.
What are your suggestions for coping when you’re running out of time?