Tag Archives: Presenting

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!

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