Mastering public speaking timing is a seldom considered speaking skill. Yet it is just as important as all the other skills.
Why is mastering your timing so important?
Mastery of Timing: Why You Need To
Your timing is part of how you present yourself. It speaks of your preparation, your concern for the audience and even your respect for the audience and the other speakers you may be sharing the podium with. Most of all, it shows your respect for your host.
Timing involves the time you take to present each part and the whole of your talk. It also involves your choice, judgment, or control of when you say, act or react while giving your talk.
President Bill Clinton to incoming George Bush on how to be a better speaker: "...timing, it's all in the timing, the pacing, and the careful parsing of the words on the page, letting it unfold like a good sermon or lecture."
To master timing of when to say or do something in your talk, start watching other great speakers. Be observant of their timing. Watch how they wait and when they speak or gesture in relation to the audience. As you see others who are great, start to emulate.
Imagine you were invited to share a stage with Les Brown. Imagine he gave you just 5 minutes to speak. Imagine what would happen if you went overtime? Your speech would be cut short, and you would not be able to finish. This was not a hypothetical. It actually happened to a speaker in Los Angeles, CA.
The timing (how long you have to speak) is also critical.
Consider this true story that happened at a health care seminar.
The last speaker of the program said, "I have just a little more. I don’t think anyone will mind if I go over time." His little was about 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, he went through the information so fast it was impossible to take notes. To add insult to my personal injury was the need to take an hour trip to hear another speaker who flew in from South Africa. Mr. Health-care's not limiting the public speaking time resulted in my missing the beginnings if a once in a life time speaker from South Africa.
You are probably thinking, why not get up and walk out? It came down to which would be more rude, to leave or to be late. Because a speaker is rude does not mean we have the right to be rude back. There is no Double O Zero designation in the world of public speaking where any of us are Licensed to be Rude. If you are a public speaker, even sitting in the audience, people look to you as an example.
The first speaker could not see that he had an eye problem. His eye problem is spelled with the single letter I. The first 'I' was he felt that his time was more important than the time of the audience. Otherwise why would he take the liberty to run over time.
The second 'I' problem was he felt his speaking was so important or so good that the audience would not mind if he went over time. It could be noted in the words...I have...then ...I don’t think... followed by...If I go over.....
He was right on one count. He did not think. Or maybe he did. He thought too much of himself. There are few speakers who are so great they can afford to go overtime and not damage their reputations. Could it have been that he just did not allow enough time to prepare properly.
The the third 'I' problem was he felt we needed 'all' the information he had so diligently researched. It was more information than could be shared in the allotted time. So he tried to cram it down our brains. Had he given it a bit of thought, he might have pared it down to the most important and given the rest as a handout.
Or was the information not so important that it needed to be remembered? After all, it was not delivered in such a way that the audience could retain it.
However you look at it, he did not address the audience needs and speak for our benefit.
Finally he had no regard for the other speakers who did stay on time and respected the time of those of us in the audience and the scheduled time of the event.
So, if you think of going over time on any of your speeches, remember this article. Not only could you be rude, possibly bore and even frustrate your audience, you may have an article written about your "I" problem for posterity.
This looked at the why of mastering public speaking timing. Now consider the how in the next section of the Public Speaking Skills.