Wednesday, August 15, 2012

7 secret advantages of the speaker who allows extra time

How many times have you said, "They want me to speak for an hour?"  Here's a secret: There may be an hour on the schedule for your talk, but if you're a smart speaker, you won't fill the time allotted. The speaker who allows extra time gets 7 secret advantages, such as:
  1. A happier audience: No one really wants the speaker to speak the full amount of time. No one. A speaker who shows not just a healthy respect for time limits, but errs on the less-is-more side, will win the day and get more praise, applause and love from the listeners. Leave them wanting more.
  2. A more engaged audience: Most audiences come to talks wanting to participate in some way, and I don't just mean by applauding. People arrive with questions, things to add to the discussion or points they want to argue. Leaving extra time lets them contribute and feel satisfaction from doing so.
  3. Less stress in the room: When speakers skirt too close to closing time, you can feel the stress in the room, from the person in front who's mouthing "Five minutes!" to the people in the back checking their watches and cellphones. Some of that stress comes from people realizing their questions won't get answered, some from people who need to be somewhere next. All of them are hoping you'll conclude before the clock or the moderator tells you to do so.
  4. More time to show off your deep knowledge: If you've got lots to say, I recommend saving some of it for the Q&A. Instead of front-loading your talk with all your data and knowledge, open things up for questions and show your smarts in the answers. This is a great tactic for making sure you don't overwhelm the audience with data, and for looking confident in Q&A.
  5. Ease in handling the unexpected:  The speaker who doesn't plan a wall-to-wall approach benefits when anything unexpected hits the fan, from a late-arriving moderator to a crisis that requires you to shorten your remarks on the fly. At one major conference this year where I was coaching speakers, a fire alarm and evacuation required several speakers to shave their presentation times dramatically so we could keep the program on time. If you've already allowed some air in your remarks, you'll have less last-minute angst in a situation like that.
  6. A chance for better, more dramatic pacing:  If you're not jamming in every fact and story you know, you can stretch out your stories and use dramatic pauses and varied pace. Speakers who are more focusing on putting too much content into a short time have only one choice: Talk fast and keep going.
  7. Better comprehension from your audience: The speedy speaker loses out in another way, because audiences need you to slow down when you speak or present, compared to the way you speak in conversation. If you're more intent on filling your time, you may have spoken all the things you want to say, but your audience might be catching less of your message overall--so is that really a win? I think not.