Speaker etiquette: when the clock is running…

I’ve just had some feedback from the talk I gave last week at the CLIC event, although generally positive, a couple of comments noted that it was a bit rushed, and there could have been more eye-contact.  Both fair points that I need to work on.

However, the reason it was rushed (aside from nerves!) was because the event was over-running.  I was the last speaker and I didn’t start until about 15 mins after the event was supposed to have finished!  As one of the organisers I was painfully aware that we were over-running most of the way through, and that we didn’t have any of those ‘red’ cards to flash at anyone.  Its an obvious thing to do, give speakers warning that they have 5 mins left etc, and then tell them to stop – but without jumping up in their faces to do so.  Why didn’t we do it?  Well, we’ve never had a problem before as far as I can remember at previous events, though we did have more speakers than usual.  Its never been an issue, and when it became one we weren’t ready.  Ok, so that is a lesson learned for next time – be prepared!

But as a speaker, what should I have done?  As a speaker who was also an organiser I knew about the time problems, I knew that people might not be able to go to the library tour we’d organised if we overran by much more, and that people might even have to walk out in order to get back to work on time.  So, even though I knew no-one else had been made to cut their talk short, and even though I presumed many of them may not have realised they were overrunning, I didn’t want to take too long with mine.

I tried not to gabble (and I don’t think I did!), but I tried to be as speedy as possible within reason.  I probably would have made more eye-contact if I’d had plenty of time (but I probably need to work on that too, I rely on notes and have not developed the ability to just ‘talk’).

If I hadn’t been part of the organising team would I have thought, ‘sod it, I’m taking as long as I want’…Probably not, as I’m a timid mouse really, and would still have been aware that I was the last in a long overrun morning.  But what exactly is the etquette in these circumstances?  It wasn’t my fault as a speaker that I was starting late, but is it my responsibility to be slightly speedier in my delivery? 

My talk fitted its alotted 15 mins, and I didn’t have to miss things out, but I would have been a bit more relaxed without the time pressures, and would have come across as less rushed.

Last time I gave a talk I had a disastrous time as there was a virus on the conference equipment and my powerpoint wouldn’t run at all, so I just had to speak (from my copious notes!) without all the lovely pictures and graphs I had prepared.  I’m beginning to think my presentation attempts are jinxed, and its not giving me any confidence!



Filed under Conferences, CPD, Librarianship, Staff development

8 responses to “Speaker etiquette: when the clock is running…

  1. It’s very unfair (and inaccurate) to criticise you for a rushed delivery – I thought you did extremely well considering how late you were forced to start. You seemed very composed despite the stressful nature of the situation, and took us through your talk purposefully – I wouldn’t have described it as rushed at all. As for eye contact, I’d like to know how many people in that room would be brave enough to present without a script…

  2. Alison’s quite right – I don’t think your talk came across as rushed in the slightest. You did a wonderful job of delivering your presentation effectively whilst being mindful of the time pressures. You certainly shouldn’t feel your presentation attempts are jinxed – I thought your Prezi was excellent (your first one too!) and the theme of Odysseus was genius, linking it all together. You should be proud of yourself! As one of the organising team with you, I do agree that we need to have a strategy next time in case things start to overrun, but we can definitely work on that!

  3. I didn’t think it seemed rushed at all – we were all conscious that time was a problem, mainly due to the slow internet connection. I was at the back so I don’t think eye contact was possible or expected from where I was sitting (from any of the speakers), and we were all admiring your nice Odyssey pictures anyway! I have completely failed to do a proper Prezi myself, so was very impressed!

  4. Helen Griffiths

    Your presentation was fabulous and very informative. I really enjoyed it! I did however leave feedback that I thought it was a shame the end of the event was rushed – the stress of which detracted a little from the relaxed nature of the rest of the morning. This was not a criticism of your presentation! I personally feel you handled the time pressures with a professional grace that you should be proud of. Inspirational!

    • Thank you so much. There have been some lovely comments on this post, and its nice to know I didn’t appear a complete gabbling idiot in front of everyone! I think most people feel a bit paranoid about their presentations, and its hard to tell how one really appears to the audience.

  5. I didn’t think your presentation was too rushed either, and I was so busy looking at your lovely illustrations I wouldn’t have noticed whether you were making eye contact or not! The only part that seemed rushed to me was at the end of all the presentations, when we wrapped up to leave, but that was probably because I was one of those people shooting out the door as soon as it was over.
    All the presentations were amazing, and so full of really useful information. Perhaps the problem was that it might have been better as an all day session, but that would have been impossible on a zero budget and with everyone’s work commitments. I thought you all did a great job, both Jen and myself came away thinking it was one of the best CLIC events we’d been to so far.
    I plan on blogging about it once I’ve got CPD23 out the way.

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