Timing is as important as content. Your pitch may be perfect, but get your timing wrong and you instantly become the person who fluffs the punch line of a joke - it's the loss of impact you remember, not the joke.
Start and finish on-time
Starting late is disrespectful to your audience - they organised their day around your presentation. Finishing late is equally disrespectful, and sometimes more disruptive because people have other plans in their diary. However, the world isn't perfect and last minute, unplanned agenda changes do happen.
If you are a speaker at an event that starts late, ask the event organiser whether they want you to finish on-time (by cutting some material), or present all of your material and finish late. Whatever the plan is, let your audience know - this is the important point. Let people know what's going on. If the timing of the agenda is changed, communicate those changes as soon as you can - and then stick to them.
During your presentation
Many presenters make the mistake of spending too much time on early topics and consequently run out of time later on. Allocate a couple of minutes to capture people's attention at the beginning, and a few minutes to deal with questions towards the end. Separate the remainder of your presentation into timed chunks - including your call-to-action at the end. This way, you will know at any given point whether you're on track to finish on-time.
Here are some tips to track whether you are on time:
- Have a visible clock in the room so you can keep a check on the time without the audience noticing - avoid looking at your watch
- Have trusted audience member give a discreet signal at agreed intervals
- Have a vibrating timer on your belt or wrist