In 2002, actor Russell Crowe created a media storm by accosting the director of the BAFTA Awards ceremony after his acceptance speech on the night had been edited when televised. Many people felt that this behaviour cost him the Academy Award for the same role, as people reacted negatively to his behaviour, and almost overnight, from being the favourite for the Oscar, saw Denzel Washington becoming the favourite to pick up the next big prize.
Do not get me wrong, I am not against Russell Crowe. I love his acting and thought that he did deserve the Academy Award, I use this as an illustration of how overstaying his welcome and the consequences of it resulted in him probably losing out.
This is a very high profile case of people taking longer than they are allocated, but many people delivering speeches or presentations make the same mistake, by overstaying their welcome and leaving a bad taste.
So why is sticking to your time limit important?
There are a number of reasons, but most are related to expectations. The expectations of your audience. In some instances, your talk might just be part of a bigger picture. Like Crowe, there were other award winners there that night, who also had to receive awards and make short acceptance speeches. You might be talking at a conference, and the room is required for another talk in the next time slot. Or you might be doing a sales presentation, and if the company has requested all potential suppliers to come in and present, you may just be one of many that they need to get through. In each case, there is an expectation of how long you will be, so that the show can carry on, and you going over the limit then starts to jeopardise the entire schedule finishing on time. The person who does this will usually end up annoying everybody else who now have to adapt to your overstaying your welcome.
What are the repercussions?
Depending on the situation, different things can happen. As in the case of Crowe, as the television feed was not live, part of what he said was edited out. In the case of a sales presentation, two possible things could happen. The people might let you finish, but think that if you could not perform your presentation in the time allocated, could you fulfil what you are promising in terms of business? Or, they may be forced to cut you short, and then you do not get to finish the presentation. In that scenario, you might not yet have actually given your solution and how it will benefit them. Most embarrassingly, people that are taking too long at conventions, etc. can be walked off the stage. Would you want any of that to happen to you? I cannot imagine so.
How do you stick within your time limit when doing presentations?
There are a number of ways that you can stick within your time limit.
1. Plan properly
Building your presentation is as important as delivering it. You will need to plan your presentation specifically around how long you are given. If you have a standard presentation that takes 45 minutes, and you have only been given 30 minutes, you are going to need to plan what to leave out properly, so that the content of your presentation is still relevant and interesting.
2. Practice sufficiently
Before delivering presentations, you should always be practicing them first. Are you staying within your time constraints in practice? If not, you will need to adjust the content again. Keep practicing until you stay within your allocated time. People practice presentations in different ways. Some may want to work with their colleagues and present to them in advance. Other people practice with spouses at home. Others practice on their own and in front of a mirror. However you choose to do it, make sure that you are timing it too.
3. Make allowances for areas that could be different in terms of time
Your actual presentation might be honed down accurately, but you do need to build in some flexibility. If you are going to have a question and answer session, it is impossible to predict exactly how many questions you will get. Do you need to allow for some extra time, or explain to your audience that you will only have X number of minutes for questions, so will try to cover as many as possible in that time frame? However you choose to handle it, you do need to give thought to it ahead of time.
4. Be flexible
I have seen people presenting only for there to be a power failure. Suddenly, the PA system might not be working, or your props such as PowerPoint slides might not be showing. Would you be able to think quickly enough that you can still proceed? What decisions would you need to make? Can you carry on while the power gets restored? What do you do if you cannot? All of these questions will have different answers dependent on the situation that you find yourself in, but have you thought any options through beforehand? I have seen a sales presentation that actually went better once the power was down, as it not only made the speaker concentrate more, but focus on the crucial things, rather than rely on slides and handouts. But the person was prepared for things like this happening, as they worked in a city that was experiencing rolling blackouts, where suburbs lost power if there was too much demand on the power grid.
So I think we can agree that not sticking to your time limit can produce negative repercussions. And if you do not want to see some sort of negative reaction, like Russell Crowe suffered, then learn from the tips provided here and stay within those boundaries. Make a good impression, rather than leaving a bad taste in your audience's mouth.
What do you think? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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