Why do speakers go over their allotted time? If there was ever a presentation buzzkill, it’s the speaker who keeps on going … and going … and going.

You know you get aggravated with the long-winded speaker when you’re sitting in the audience, but what happens when it’s you standing at the podium? Are you aware of time? Do you know what 5 minutes of talking feels like? Do you know what 20 minutes feels like? You should. You need to learn to tell, or keep, time.

In the speech prep arena, I’m going to put it out there that minding your time trumps all your excessive fretting over content. Yup, I’m saying that content alone will not leave a good impression with your audience. You need more than that. Great content needs the added ingredients of audience connection (more on that another time!) and time sensitivity.

We talk about people who are “brief and to the point” with awe and admiration, so let’s work on being one of those … Practice delivering your material. Know how much time it takes. Know what 5 or 20 minutes of talking feels like. Prioritize in order to make any necessary cuts. And when you’re at the mic, don’t go off on a tangent just because you have the floor and you thought of something super cool to share. Keep to the time limit; your audience will be grateful, and you will have succeeded in leaving a good impression … with or without perfect content!

Tick tock, people, tick tock.

Beth Levine