Category: Practice

In the Speechworks Code of Crimes Against Audiences, speaking beyond your time limit during a presentation is a crime punishable by hanging, being shot, electrocuted, drawn and quartered, and lethal injection.

At the very least, someone should give you a wedgie.

If you have 20 minutes to speak, don’t ever, under any circumstances, speak for 21 minutes. The best presenters will speak for half the allotted time and leave half the time for Q&A.

Don’t you feel abused by presenters that go beyond their allotted time? Of course you do. Why don’t you get up to leave? Because like most people, you’re too polite. But while you may be sitting politely, you’re steaming inside because the dope at the lectern didn’t have the discipline to rehearse his presentation a few times with a stopwatch.

Recently, we heard a media big shot speak to a convention hall filled with about 3,000 people. He had one hour to speak. Amazingly, he wasn’t able to say everything in an hour. He rambled through some interesting observations and the occasional interesting anecdote. But to everyone’s great dismay, toward the end, he said, “I know I’m out of time, but let me add just a few things.” He then spoke for 10 more minutes.

Good heavens! If you can’t say it in an hour you should seek professional help.

Here’s a quick calculation. His lack of discipline in preparing his presentation had wasted 10 minutes for every one of the 3,000 people in the convention hall. That works out to a total of almost three weeks of wasted time.

Remember, no one every complained that a speech was too short.

Speechworks is a communication and selling skills coaching firm. We teach professionals how to craft and deliver complex messages in a simple, persuasive manner. Since 1986, through workshops and one-on-one instruction, we have helped countless individuals become better presenters and communicators. You can reach us at 404.266.0888, or on the web at

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