3 Steps To Improve Your Presentation Timing

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

– Michael Altshuler

Are you still mad at that presenter for making you miss a dinner date?

Do you want to avoid a timing fiasco, when it’s your turn to speak?

Then you need to learn how to time your presentations.

Your audience is busy, they have places to go and a million things to do. When you show no signs of wrapping up, your audience:

  • Gets angry with you
  • Worries about the delay
  • Considers walking out
  • Tunes you out.

You lose both credibility and the opportunity to end on a strong note. Which raises the question –

Should you close before time?

Closing early is definitely a solution, but you’re walking a fine line. Finish your speech in half the allotted time, and your audience may feel cheated. More so when they’ve paid to hear you speak, or are basing a key business decision on your presentation.

When you know the allotted time, follow the rule of thumb. Ensure your presentation takes up 90-95% of scheduled time.

When you don’t have this luxury, use these 3 steps to time your presentation.


Sometimes lack of time is not the problem.  Your ability to condense information separates a long-winding speech from one that ends on time. Resist the temptation to share everything and focus on the specifics.

Allocate enough time for a Q&A session, breaks (seminars), and group activities (training). Cover enough material to benefit your audience, but cut out the flab. This helps you avoid a roller coaster presentation where you move from a slow pace to rapid fire.


Timing speeches can be difficult for a novice. Rehearsals can be a life saver. Time yourself using one of these techniques:

  • Practise your speech out loud
  • Speak before a test audience
  • Record your speech and play it back

Even better; keep your rehearsal as real as possible. Use the same props and equipment, have a dress rehearsal, and be sure to use your speaking style and body language.


You can accurately time short speeches (10-20 minutes) with practice sessions.

Longer presentations (30-60 minutes) call for a different approach.

Apply the chunking method for longer speeches.  Break your content into blocks and note the time taken. Include transitional time limits for intro, demos, Q&A, and discussions.

Time yourself as you present. If you’re running behind time in one allotted block, compensate in the next by either editing relevant content or varying your pace.

Do you have any memorable or annoying timing related stories to share?

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