Delivery Lesson Twelve: Timing


Some of my long-winded students have trouble with timing when delivering their speeches.  We use “flags” to give them “1:00” and “0:30” remaining signs.  These “flags” are akin to Dave Chappelle’s Wrap It Up Box. (If you know Dave Chappelle, you already know that clip is NSFW!)

People often ramble in life and during speeches.  For example, when my Film students in Public Speaking were tasked to give a 3 to 5 minute informative presentation on an industry professional, one young lady spoke for 17 minutes about Elizabeth Taylor.  The entire class was ready to murder her.

I remind my students that if you are tasked to give a 5 minute speech, going over on time is disrespectful to the people who have to follow you.  As a presenter, you are eating away at the time of the people who present after you.  In the case of the 17 minute Elizabeth Taylor speaker, 3 presenters could have gone in the time it took this young lady to deliver one speech.

For the most part, the students who have trouble with timing are the people who a) haven’t prepared or b) don’t read the directions.  Either way, these students aren’t considering their audience’s needs and are creating presenter-centered speeches.  Similarly, in the real world, people who go over on time are most concerned with making their point no matter what… they should be concerned with making their point in the most clear, well organized, concise way possible.

When delivering a speech, a time limit is almost always in place.  Whether you’re tasked to speak for 5 minutes or 5 hours, you should never go over on time.  Ever.

Audiences can take the extra time you give them to ask you questions; to meet with you after everyone is gone to ask you to elaborate; or to leave the venue to get on with their busy lives.  Audiences will never hate you for letting them leave early.  Audiences will always hate you for going over on time.

But keep in mind how precious you feel your time to be.  Let’s say you just grabbed a gallon of milk and jumped in the “10 items or less” line at Publix because you have to hurry to get home and then to a meeting by 6:00 PM.  Let’s say that the person you jump behind in that express line is a woman and her three screaming children, and she has an entire buggy full of items… 72 items!  How angry would you feel if you had to wait for her before you were able to check out?  The hatred you feel in that scenario is just how much hate an audience feels if you make them sit through at 17 minute presentation that was required to be 3 to 5 minutes.

Don’t make them hate you!  Honor your commitment and always respect time.


One thought on “Delivery Lesson Twelve: Timing

  1. Alex:

    I don’t think that a couple of flags at the very end will be enough for some students. You might borrow the Black Flag from auto racing though:

    Students are used to seeing a progress bar display on their computers. An approximatio n to that done with a set of Timing Tiles might work better:


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