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Sticking to Timetables and Agendas in a Speech

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 9 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Business Speech Speech Business Speaker

Good control of a business speech will enhance your reputation as a business speaker and audiences will look forward to repeat performances. Business audiences will be looking to get the most out of any event so they will appreciate speakers who run through a timetable smoothly and don't waste time.

However there will always be people in the audience who want to follow their own agenda and take you off course. Handling interruptions and questions is the subject of another article in this section so in this one we will concentrate on the basics of timing a speech.

Tailoring Your Speech to a Timetable

Before you get to an event you will presumably have discussed the amount of time that you have with the organisers of the event. You should also check how long they are willing to allow for questions at the end of the speech. Once you know how much time you have, practise your speech beforehand to make sure you can fit it in.

Design your speech in a modular way so that sections can be deleted or added depending on how much time you get. This way you can swiftly adapt if you find that you have less time than you expected. When you arrive check when you are expected to start and how long you have. Make sure that the audience timetable or agenda advertises the same timings too.

If you find out that the audience has been told that you will be on for longer or shorter than you have been told, you can whip the laptop out and add or delete a slide to tailor the speech to fit the new slot.

Keeping Other Speakers to the Timetable

One of the elements of timekeeping that you cannot control is if the other speakers before you run on and your slot keeps diminishing. The only thing you can do is try to persuade whoever is in charge to diplomatically but firmly cut off anyone who is taking more time than they are allotted.

The key to this is having a good organiser, someone who will tell all the speakers beforehand that they will be wound up if they start crowding other people's slots. This will set the expectation so that when the organiser has to step in they at least won't be surprised. The organiser may need some pushing to lay the groundwork and actually step in so stay close and don't be afraid to urge them on to do their duty.

Timing During a Business Speech

Once you have been announced and are walking out in front of the audience check the time and make sure that you can see a clock from where you are standing. If you can't, take your watch off and place it on the desk or podium so that you can look at it without cranking your wrist round and pulling your sleeves up.

Keep an eye on you time as you progress. It might help to write the expected timings on your cue cards or notes to make it easier to check as you go along. If you don't use cue cards or notes just make sure you know the running order and timings and can mentally tick off progress against your schedule as you go.

A Round of Applause

Finally, don’t forget to be prepared to allow time for applause at the end. Maybe it will only last for ten or fifteen seconds most of the time but if you've put as much effort into the rest of your speech as you have into the timekeeping then you should get a long standing ovation.

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