Adapt or Die: What to do if Your Time Slot Gets Chopped

Well, it finally happened to me, and I learned something new about presenting. I was all set for my one-hour presentation. Great content, good stories to share, and a few well-planned activities for the audience to apply what they were learning. Then this happened...

The crowd was large, quite a bit larger than expected. The moderator knew people were there for networking, so she invited everyone to stand and introduce themselves and their businesses. There were eight tables in the room. By the time the first table finished introducing themselves, I knew we were in trouble. By the end of their introductions, I only had 25 minutes instead of the hour I'd planned for. Deep breath.

Here's what I did. I rushed through my slides, making quick comments and pulling out key items, ignoring the rest. I felt scattered and hurried, exactly the opposite of what I was trying to help people in the room accomplish in their speaking. It wasn't the worst speech ever given but it was far from what I wanted to give them. I was disappointed in the situation, and in my decision to soldier on.

Here's what I should have done. After a quick word of welcome, I could have shown them my agenda slide and said, "Here are the four areas I'd planned on discussing today. Let's turn this into a conversation instead of a speech. I'd love to hear what you are interested in. Who has a question about the first agenda item?"

I know this audience would not have been shy about asking, which is why I think this would have been a better move for all of us. And even with a quieter group, I could have taken the first five minutes to make a few remarks about my subject, and then opened up it for discussion. Or had them write down their questions and passed them to me. I just didn't think of it in the moment.

What's the moral of the story? I knew better, and now you do too. You can learn from my mistake. Stay flexible. Adapt to circumstances as they arise. And have a plan for less time, just in case something like this happens to you.