Saturday, January 22, 2011

Stay within your time!

Don't go over your time. Ever.

Except, maybe, if they give you a standing ovation and refuse to leave the theatre, chanting "More more more!"

But in a business environment? A meeting? A presentation? No. 

If you're the senior person in the room, you are being an asshole and setting a bad example for your troops. If you're not the senior person in the room, you might want to look up the phrase "career-limiting move."

I am constantly aghast at how often business people blithely run 25 or even 50 percent over their allotted time. I worked with an NGO a few years back, selecting the new CEO. For the second interview, we included a 12-minute "my vision" presentation. In the briefing document we stressed that the presentation would be timed and that it was to be "strictly 12 minutes." I told each candidate as they stood up to deliver: 
"Imagine you are delivering this presentation on CNN. Unfortunately, the satellite will pass out of coverage in twelve minutes' time, cutting you dead. So you need to be really mindful of the clock. Go."
Only two out of five candidates stuck to their time ...

Execupundit, wise man and all-round seer Michael Wade nails it.
"... and I'd like to thank the Dolly Grip and the guy who brought me those little moist towelettes and my kindergarten teacher and ..."

Related posts:
Timeliness (from the preso blog)
Making time for rehearsal (from the preso blog)


Princess Frosty said...

50% over time? is this TRUE?

That is unbelievable!!

I was invited to give a 2minute presentation at a BNI meeting years ago. WE had to give the nature of our business, what we hoped to get from BNI members (ie referrals, business, etc), and the
key points of our business.

Good discipline.

Going over a talk by a few minutes is understandable, sometimes desirable if people ask questions - Being a seminar junkie, I have attended quite a few business talks where I would have been happy to linger to learn more; but for someone to go over the time limit to SUCH an extent speaks of massively bad planning.

As a matter of interest, though, I have found that the problem with many business talks is actually the acoustics. Often it's difficult to hear the speaker, even with sound equipment, often simply due to the way the space is designed eg outside noise leaks in.

If there are hard surfaces the sound bounces and some speakers don't realise that wearing a microphone does NOT entitle you to keep your voice deep in your chest cavity!It belongs out on the floor with your audience!

I actually brought this up briefly at the aforementioned BNI meeting because some speakers were, as Seinfeld put it "low talkers" - you could hear them but it was a bit of an effort - and I felt a bit rude doing it but felt I should make the point. I was polite and did not labour the point.
Turned out the BNI chief had noted the problem and was actually considering getting a voice coach for the group! Vindication city!

Have you noitced this speaking/acoustic problem, RM, or do your proteges tend to be easily heard?

Mark said...

"The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter" Blaise Pascal (ahem).

The length of a presentation is inversely proportional to the amount of preparation.

Rowan Manahan said...

50% over time - unbelievable but true your highness. And I see this all the time.

I like the 120 second drill too, it really focuses the mind.

I've found the acoustic problem all over the place as well - even in full-on conference facilities. I'm a big believer in getting into a room you are going to speak in if at all possible. Many's the time I have adjusted gain, bass or treble in the amplification both on my own behalf and on behalf of clients.

Low talkers, or underspeakers as I call them are rarely aware of how hard they are to hear - get into the room in advance (even a few hours before) and have a listen to yourself. I use the vid camera on my phone; I set it at the back of the room when I am loosening out my voice. It gives me perfect feedback as to my audibility and clarity.

Rowan Manahan said...

Mark - a great quote, and one I cheerfully stole for my first book. Remember the famous quote by Pres Wilson?

“He was once asked how long it took him to write a speech. He answered, 'That depends. If I am to speak 10 minutes, I need a week to prepare. If 15 minutes, 3 days. If half an hour, two days. If an hour, I am ready now.'”