Less is more! Don’t speak too long

On the Public Speaking Skills Facebook page, Hugo raised an excellent point about speakers who exceed their allotted time – or “waffle on interminably”, as he put it.

However mesmerising your speech or presentation may be, it’s never a good idea to go over time. You may be driven by the best of intentions to give your audience more than they bargained for but, actually, it’s unprofessional and it can result in your talk tailing off as the audience gets restless. Depending on the context, they may have homes to go to, trains to catch, other appointments to attend. Or they may be tired from so much concentrating and need some fresh air.

When preparing and practising your talk, aim to come in just under the time allocated to you. This will give you a bit of leeway in case things take longer than expected on the day and, from the audience’s point of view, it will make a welcome change.

Anything you can say well in 10 minutes, you can say well in 9 minutes 30 seconds. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll say it better in the shorter time because you’ve focused and sharpened what you want to say that bit more.


About Georgie

Coach and consultant in effective communication - public speaking, interviews & pitches, training, lecturing, meetings, debates & discussions. Motivational speaker
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2 Responses to Less is more! Don’t speak too long

  1. Emma N says:

    I completely agree with this. As the veteran of many academic conferences, I always found it infuriating when people spoke too long, especially as they had inevitably said everything that needed to be said within the alloted time and were adding nothing by spinning it out further. Or they had over-reached themselves and tried to do more than could possibly be done in 20 minutes (the standard time frame for an academic paper) – a failure of planning. The additional problem in these situations was that typically a panel for a session would be made up of three or more speakers, each of whom had been tasked with speaking for a certain length of time, and when one went over it took time away from the others, or from the time allocated for questions (usually the most interesting), or ate into the coffee break (vital), and put the chair in a difficult position of having to decide whether to let someone run on or cut them off – the former provoking irritation from other delegates and the latter appearing awkward and possibly rude. You are totally right that if you plan to speak for slightly less time than you’re given you will have the goodwill of the room behind you at once, particularly the conference organisers who will be desperately and increasingly hopelessly trying to keep everything running to time.

  2. georgie926 says:

    Thank you very much, Emma, for this interesting insight into academic conferences. In this sort of situation, it’s even more important to keep within the time slot than it is when yours is the only speech/presentation happening – and it’s amazing how many people seem to think it’s OK to go on and on. As you say, very tricky for those chairing as well as tedious for the audience.

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