Don’t Break This Cardinal Rule in Your Speech
If you had been sitting next to me on that frustrating Friday afternoon at 1:14, you would’ve felt the frustration in the air.
I was sitting with sixty other people. We were listening to a speech about the challenges facing retirees in the wake of recent stock market volatility. The ideas and concepts presented were enlightening, educational and entertaining.
So what was the problem?
The speaker ran over his allotted time. The advertising for this event promised an end time of 1:00. At 1:14, the speech had not yet finished, and didn’t promise to end soon.
You may be thinking, “It’s only a few minutes, Michael, what’s the problem?”
The number of minutes isn’t the point. What is important is that you must respect your audience’s time. More than ever, people are feeling time crunch. There are dozens of other activities they could be engaged in other than listening to your presentation. Your speech isn’t just about the material you deliver; it’s also about the audience’s time.
In the incident above, I was torn between leaving the event early to get to my next appointment on time, or stay to pick up more useful information. The speaker let me down because he should never have put me in that position.
3 Keys to Avoid Irritating Your Audience
What can you learn from this experience so that you never put your audience members in an uncomfortable position?
1) Know what time you are supposed to finish. Patricia Fripp has said that ‘last words linger.’ I’ll add one caveat… ‘If you have the audiences full attention!’ The audience will not hear one of your final words if they’re looking at their watches or debating whether to leave your presentation because of other commitments.
2) Remember the ‘Less is More’ rule. Most speakers are so eager to present all they know, they want to jam every possible bit of information into their speech. An old saying in the speaking world is that “if you crowd your information in, you crowd your audience out.” It’s far better to leave information out and allow time for your key points to sink in.
3) Conclude 5 minutes EARLY. This sounds crazy, I know, but it works. The impact is terrific. You can see the look of pleasant surprise in the eyes of the audience when they realize you’ve just given them a few unexpected minutes, rather than pushing them right up against the clock.
Speaking to an audience is a privilege. The people in front of you are giving up their most precious commodity – TIME – to listen to you. Respect their time, and you greatly increase the chances of your message sinking in… and getting asked back to speak.
What experiences have you had with this concept (feel free to leave comments below)?
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