Public Speaking – Speaking For The Right Amount Of Time

Seeing kids in malls acting all restless is the norm rather than the exception these days. With high intakes of sugar and high addiction to iPads, it becomes rather tiresome to scold children after breaking into a tantrum in the middle of the crowds.

Do you know when I feel like getting into a tantrum myself? And do you know when other people in my surroundings share the same anger and frustration with me? When we are helplessly sitting, listening to an extremely lengthy presentation.

Mind you: lengthy public speeches can be incredibly rewarding. Look no further than Jim Carrey’s commencement address at the 2014 graduation ceremony of the Maharishi University of Management; such performances can keep you on the edge of your seat. It is only when things get long-winded that audiences start developing suicidal ideas.

“No audience ever complained about a presentation or speech being too short”, and that should be your mantra whenever preparing to communicate to any given audience

Below are some tips to help you better prepare for a timely and punctual performance:

(1) Define your personal appreciation of time

People have different understandings of time depending on their background; if you’re from the Middle East, you’d probably be polychronic i.e. time for you can easily be regenerated and you give out loose appointments (“I’ll be there in 10-20 minutes”); and if you’re from Scandinavia, you’d probably be monochronic i.e. time for you is a precious commodity and coming to an 8-o’clock appointment at 8:02 means you’re late. So build a solid understanding of how you and your audiences appreciate time in order to deliver a performance that would be well received – even if you’d have to start late due to the late arrival of guests.

(2) Acknowledge the short attention spans of audiences

With the current bombardment of information hitting us via multiple screens at once, we’re having an increasingly hard time staying focused for increased durations of time. I’ve recently decided to delete all notifications coming out of my smartphone in an attempt to try and have prolonged periods of concentration that aren’t interrupted by beeps and pings signifying a false sense of urgency. So, when it comes to your public speaking engagements, make sure to keep things extremely short in duration – the age of hour-long tirades belongs to the past.

(3) Time yourself during rehearsals

Rehearsing for a public speaking performance is of essential importance to ensure a solid delivery – but it would be anything but if you go past your time limit! If you are speaking as part of an event, make sure to respect the time allocated to you; the organizers and subsequent speakers would hate you for nibbling away some of their precious time otherwise. Also, plan for enough Q&A time if you want to have a certain level of interaction with your audience. And, if you’re simply delivering a presentation to your coworkers, leave enough time for discussion – you don’t want them to run out the door the minute you say “thank you”.

Time is of the essence, and even more so in public speaking. Your listeners would be so grateful to you telling them what they need to know in short, succinct fashion. And you’d be giving yourself more time to engage with them afterwards – they would have buried their suicidal thoughts by then.

Rabih El Khodr is an independent communication trainer and consultant with close to a decade of professional experience spanning across the Levant, the GCC, and North America. He is the founder of public speaking consultancy Standup Communication, with a presence in Lebanon and the UAE. He is the official training partner of the ArabNet conferences in Riyadh and Beirut, training entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas and businesses as part of regional competitions.

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