Don't go over time - and that includes the Q&A

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One thing that I always stress in my workshops is that there's no excuse for going over time with your presentation. At a typical conference, this will quite obviously inconvenience your audience, since they may want to change rooms to attend the next talk, or take a bathroom break between talks, or grab a coffee. It also prevents the next speaker from setting up in time and may even derail the entire schedule of at least the conference track you're in. And even if you're the only speaker at an event, consider that people in your audience will have made plans for after your talk.

Fortunately, most speakers nowadays seem to have realised this and manage to finish in time; with their talk, that is.

At a conference I attended recently, there were 3 or 4 occasions where the speaker finished his or her talk well within time and then opened the floor for questions. And then they apparently forgot about the time altogether.

Here are three tips to prevent this from happening:

  • When planning your talk, double-check how much time you actually have. Are you supposed to talk for an hour or does the next talk start an hour after yours? In the latter case, you should leave 5-10 minutes between talks; so instead of an hour, you suddenly only have 50 minutes - including the time for questions. If in doubt, ask the organisers.
  • Have a visible clock. Your laptop's presenter screen will usually have a clock or a countdown timer. But if your laptop is not in front of you, you may not look at it all the time. Especially not during the Q&A, when you're not referring to your slides. So if the room doesn't have a clock in your line of sight, bring one with you and place it where you see it. You could also program a vibration alarm for your mobile phone to alert you that time is up.
  • Have someone in the audience remind you. Ask someone you know and trust to alert you when the time is nearly up. Agree on a hand-sign or something that's visible to you but not too distracting for the rest of the audience.

Do you have a favourite trick to keep you from going over time? Leave a comment and share it. Thanks!

(Image Credit: Photo of yours truly in action by Malcolm Noyes, from Twitter)

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Creative Commons Licence "Don't go over time - and that includes the Q&A" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.