Timing your speech

A priest was known to give long sermons. He once said to one of his friends, “I don’t mind when people constantly look at their wrist watches while I speak but I do mind when they shake them up to check if the watches are still working.”

One of the challenges of public speaking is to deliver an effective speech within the stipulated time. It is not always easy. Even the best of the speakers tend to go beyond their allotted time, and lose their audience after a while. How does one keep his speech or presentation short and finish on time? I would propose the following approach:

  • Most of the speakers do have a structure but not all of them plan on how much time they are going to spend on each point. As a result, they end up spending more time on some points and end up rushing through the rest. Having an outline helps. It provides a structure to the speech. But it is always useful to prepare and be conscious of the time each point is going to take. Timing for the beginning part, the middle part and the closing part needs to be planned. We can’t afford not to cover any of these.
  • As we prepare, we need to ask ourselves, can we drop some of the points we have prepared. We need to sacrifice a few points, in order to be focused and finish on time. The Less is more concept of effective communication must never be forgotten.
  • We have to be conscious of time while we deliver the speech. Sometimes due to a delayed start or some unforeseen situation, we end up having less time to deliver the speech than was planned. Therefore, the speaker should be prepared to make some last minute or during the speech adjustments in shortening the speech.

I would close by reminding what I wrote in an earlier post on public speaking – Why should the audience listen to you? (January 2011). A good speaker is the one who stops when the audience still wants to listen to him/her.


6 Responses to Timing your speech

  1. M N Afaque says:


    I don’t want to use the word eye opener, as i often used in many of my comments BUT no other words i found. so again an “EYE OPENER” for me.

    I liked the most is ” A good speaker is the one who stops when the audience still wants to listen to him/her.”

  2. Divya Miyan says:

    Im responding for the first time. I found the post very useful for imbibing in our daily activities. I will try to follow these principles as I want to become a good speaker.

  3. Ruby Miclette says:

    I would like to thnkx for the efforts you have put in writing this blog. I am hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own blog now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a good example of it.

  4. Dr.Anurag Verma says:

    ” A good speaker is the one who stops when the audience still wants to listen to him/her.” is one of the best quotes in quite some time.Yes! it is the best bet and very basic human tendency too.Keep them waiting for more……

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