Back to Back Issues Page
[Speaking-Out-Loud June 2018] On the importance of sticking to time.
June 30, 2018

In this Issue

Woman saying Blah, blah, blah

Go to Top

Why & how to stop talking too much
Or the importance of keeping to time!

Who has been to a wedding, a conference, or a meeting where there was a speaker who did not know when to stop?

Just when they seemed like they were about to wind down, they started up again. One more big deep breath. Then more yada, yada, blah, blah.

Meanwhile there are all the tell-tale signs of an audience getting restless. People are suppressing yawns, fidgeting, shuffling feet, glancing at wrist watches, covertly checking their phone for messages, rolling eyeballs ...

From hero to zero

If you're the speaker and even fractionally aware of the impact you're having you'll realize you've compromised the opportunity to get your message across. You'll also know your audience stopped listening several minutes back and is now resentfully plotting how to get you to stop talking without being out-rightly rude.

Is this familiar territory to you?

Gulp. Confession time. Sometimes that person who has gone on, and on, and on some more, has been me. Knowing does not feel good.

The "fixes"

Here are the "fixes" I've found useful. I hope they'll save you from having to learn the hard way. (The links go to pages with more information on my site.)

Decide on the speech purpose - if the principal purpose is clear, and you know your audience, it is easier to decide on and order the key points you want to cover.

Plan and outline the speech - shape it to fit the speaking time you've been allotted. Do not be tempted to try and squeeze in a couple of extra irresistible interesting examples. Go with the strongest material you have.

Rehearse - Only rehearsal let's you know how long it takes to go through your material. You'll need at least four run-throughs to get to know the flow of speech, and to get the timing accurate. If it's too long, prune it! The more you know it, the more fluent you'll be and there'll be less 'um' and 'err' time, as well as less temptation to wander off track.

If you have an opportunity to rehearse in front of an audience before you deliver the speech 'for real' take it. An audience responds and those responses need to be factored in to the overall length of your speech. If you're waiting for laughter to subside or adding verbal asides, they take time!

Resist winging it - as in talking off the cuff without any preparation. It can be dangerous because it may lead to waffling irrelevancies. If you're asked to comment and you do not have pertinent things to say, say so without hesitation or deviation.

Yay, they love me!

The results of sticking to time:

  • Delighted surprise and respect from your audience, fellow speakers and event organizers for being succinct.
    You have not weakened your own message, hijacked the agenda, or potentially ruined anyone else's presentation by running overtime.
  • Learning to condense material to its essentials which in turn makes it more effective and you a better speaker.
  • Feeling justifiably pleased with yourself for taking onboard the responsibility of keeping to time.

For more

If you're finding yourself on the wrong side of clock consistently do check out these pages:

  • Speech rate. Find out how many words to prepare to fit how fast you habitually speak and your time allowance. For example if you speak at around 120 words per minute a 5 minute speech is around 600 words.
    If you're tempted to try and fit more in by speaking faster, don't! As a strategy that will backfire. Audiences tire quickly of listening to fast speech.
    Read about pacing words for effectiveness instead.
  • Rehearse using a timer. Here's a very easy to use desktop version per courtesy Toastmasters International or use the timer on your phone.

The goal as Dorothy Sarnoff (1914-2008) said is to “Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.”

Go to Top

What's new

"How to" or demonstrative speech topics

Dozens of demonstration speech topics! If you're stuck wondering what to use as a topic for a "how to" speech check this page out.

Follow the links and you'll find information on crafting the speech, more topic suggestions, and how to use props effectively.

Go to Top

And now some inspiration

Read me a story!

I love being read to. It takes me back to childhood, curling in against my father's chest, feeling its rise and fall as he read, and feeling safe. He read well which in turn encouraged me to do the same.

When you listen to highly skilled readers you enjoy the story, its language, and the range of vocal techniques they use to deliver it. Some of those you may want to try for yourself!

Children's stories give you total permission to play. Use a different voice for a character, slow the rate down, speed it up, pause, stress that word ... Listen, and then try for yourself!

Comment, share & connect

If you've got comments, feedback or questions you're most welcome to contact me through my about me page.

If you liked this issue of Speaking-Out-Loud, please feel free to send it on to any friends or family. The site url to forward so they can subscribe is Speaking-Out-Loud.

And I'd love to see you on's face book page too.

Until next time,
Happy speaking,


Go to Top

Back to Back Issues Page