It's About Time: Tips for Presentation Time Management

Whether it is a formal proposal, a team meeting, or a training event, most of the time we have more content than time. If you feel rushed or sometimes run out of time, read on for better time management. Which of these might be helpful for you?

  1. Proper planning and rehearsal. Be sure you have practiced your entire presentation, start to finish. Can you make it through the content in the time allotted? Remember if you get questions, it will take even longer, so build in a little “wiggle room.”
  2. Determine Need to Know vs. Nice to Know. Clearly, you won’t be able to cover every point in detail. What information is the most important to the most people? What information is interesting, but maybe not as critical? What information is fascinating to you but might not be compelling for listeners? Plan to spend the bulk of your time on the “need to know” content.
  3. Move through questions briskly. Taking questions makes the presentation more interactive and lets you know where you have hit a nerve or where people need more information. However, if you take too much time answering questions, something else will have to be cut. As you take questions, decide if they are “need to know” or “nice to know” and tailor your answer accordingly. Practice answering briefly and moving forward. You may also choose to answer some questions offline. 
  4. Use a Parking Lot. A parking lot can be a flipchart or a sheet of paper to write questions or topics as they come up that you may or may not have time for. By capturing them, you can remember to work them in as time permits, or promise follow-up answers if appropriate. You can even approach people on breaks if the content warrants a quick one-on-one response.
  5. Have a time plan and check it at intervals. As you prepare for your session, jot down your time estimates for each section of content. On every break, take a look to see where you are vs. where you should be. Take steps early in the session to get back on track, or plan ahead if there are areas ahead where you can make up lost time. Don’t wait until the end and then chop off content randomly.
  6. Plan your opening and closing to avoid rambling. If you aren’t sure how you are going to open or close your session, you could get off track before you even start, or create frustration when you run over your time allotment. Rehearse this part so you know you can flow through it quickly; both the audience and you will be better off. 

With these tips you can move through your content with the confidence that you will end on time and with grace.