You’re asked to speak at a meeting. The host tells you to address the group for a specific length of time, so you plan to use every minute.
That’s a mistake.
Just because you’re told to speak for 30 minutes does not oblige you to fill the whole slot. By planning to talk for 10 to 20 percent less, you force yourself to make every word count, you leave the audience wanting more (always a good thing!) and you provide a cushion for the unexpected.
If you’re one of many speakers scheduled back to back, you may find that the people ahead of you on the docket go beyond their allotted time. Sharing the stage with others often leads to inequities as motor mouths hog the proceedings.
Rather than stew in resentment as others eat away at your time, adjust nimbly to the situation by mentally pruning your remarks. Cut anecdotes, examples or extraneous facts that stray from your core message. Jettison “nice to have” slides. Shorten your introduction.
Regular readers of Managing People at Work know to think in threes. By organizing your presentation in three chapters, you’ll stay on track more easily. If you’re suddenly squeezed for time, you can still think in threes; just limit the supporting material within each of your three sections so that you cover the essentials.
Ask the host about Q&A before you take the stage. Find out who will dictate when it’s time for the last question and how the audience will be notified. Ideally, you should decide when to end—and use your last answer to summarize your three main points.