Recently, while attending a large event, I did some time checks on the speakers. And to my surprise, less than 1 out of 4 of them managed to complete their presentation within the assigned time slot. Isn’t this a shame…

  • First of all, they are showing no respect for the other speakers. Think of the poor guys that have their speaking slot at the end of the day – or even worse near the closing of the event.
  • It’s also a nightmare for many organizers. They keep on holding up these “time’s almost up” signs, but some presenters don’t seem to notice them at all.
  • The average attention span of an (adult) audience is estimated to last 15-20 minutes. When running over time you’re risking to lose interest on your own content.
  • And, finally, they deprive their audience from lunch or from the opportunity to ask some questions at the end of their speaking slot.


So, here are a few simple tips to keep up with time, and make sure your presentation doesn’t run over.

  • In case the organizers aren’t doing this yet, ask somebody in the audience to take up the role of timekeeper, and to hold up red, yellow, green card (or a 10’, 5’ and 2’ sign) to indicate how much time you have left for finishing your talk – and don’t ignore it!
  • Don’t overload your presentation with visuals (count at least 2 to 3 minutes talking time per slide) and rehearse your speech till it fits into the allowed time slot.
  • If you feel you’re going to run over time, adapt your story and/or your pace, and consider skipping details and less meaningful slides.
  • Plan (and check) a few “milestones” during your presentation. It’s good to know when you are (or when you’re supposed to be) half way – so you don’t have to await the last 5 minutes for speeding up.
  • Always make sure you leave ample time for Q&A at the end. As a rule of thumb you should reserve around 20% of your time budget for questions and discussion. Tell the audience before you start presenting to save their questions for the end. This will prevent you from unwanted interruptions and allow you to plan your presentation properly.