Please…stop talking.

Have you been in an audience listening to a speaker who doesn’t know he is finished?

You are done listening, but the speaker is not done talking.

Another timing situation is that the speaker and his or her content are still engaging. You might even want the presentation to last longer. But the allotted time is up. Other speakers and activities, like lunch or a break,  are on the agenda, and it’s time for the speaker to wrap it up. And they don’t.

I admit that on at least one occasion I was the guilty speaker.

My allotted time was fifteen minutes, and I took twenty. Percentage wise, those additional five minutes meant that I was 33% over time. That was not professional of me. And it was my fault. They had a timing system, but I failed to notice it. I was having so much fun delivering the talk that I just keep going until I reached the bottom of my box of content which was taking longer than it did in my practice sessions.

I like to think that only the meeting organizer and the MC were aware of my transgression. It was embarrassing to me anyway, and a lesson learned. The lesson was to be sure to know the allocated time AND timing system, even if I have to bring it myself.

It’s not unusual for a speaker with a planned time slot of one hour to go one hour twenty minutes. In that situation, 33% over now means either a break will be given up, lunch will be late, another speaker will have to shorten his talk by twenty minutes, or everyone will leave and get on the road twenty minutes later than expected. All of those are bad and should be unacceptable outcomes.

This week I attended a very well-run association conference. The executive director is also the meeting planner, and he is an expert at what he does. He has a skillful A/V coordinator working the event, who is able to control an iPad timer app from his remote station. The iPad is at the foot of the speaking area, right under a monitor that allows the speakers to see what the audience is seeing on the screen. These guys have it together.

The speakers are instructed on the presence of the timer, and the importance of staying within their time frame. One result is that this association’s meetings have been compared to a well-run train or a well-conducted orchestra.

Takeaway: Know the time limit and abide by it.

My time’s up.