Ever been in a meeting where one speaker turned what should have been a five-minute lecture into a thirty-minute monstrosity? We all tend to do this from time to time, and the number one reason it happens is because we don’t properly prepare our material.
Fortunately, there are some simple guidelines for speech preparation that will help us get our speeches in within the time constraints.
First, and most important, type your speech up on the computer. You don’t have to read from this for your presentation, but figure out what you plan to say! One page, 11-point font, single-spaced is somewhere around 5 to 7 minutes – depending on your reading speed. If all you have is 5 minutes, you want to be under that one page limit. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to actually read your speech and time yourself either!
Secondly, if you’re over your time limit, ask yourself some “trimming” questions. What in your speech is non-essential? What are the most important points? Could some of your supporting data go on a handout, with your speech primarily covering the highlights? Are there anecdotes that could be shortened or removed? Are you trying to cover too much in this one speech? What other things in your speech are taking up valuable time, and not contributing to the goal of your speech?
Third, if you’re really stuck, phone a friend! A third-party, unbiased opinion of your speech will help you determine what’s necessary and what’s not.
Fourth, once you have your own edits and/or your friend’s suggestions, re-work your speech on your computer. Make sure it’s within the timeframe you need.
Last, give your speech a practice run. Read it from the paper, moving at whatever the natural pace of your speech is going to be. Time yourself, and make sure you’re coming in on time.
If you follow these steps religiously, timing issues with your speeches will become extremely rare to nonexistent. Take the time to be on time, and believe me – your audience will thank you!