The #1 Rule for Speakers and Meeting Planners

Better Be Prompt!

I’ll be brief.  Don’t go over time.

Or, as Winston Churchill might have put it:  Never speak too long.  Never speak too long.  Never speak too long.

But, it’s not always about ending your speech within the allotted time, sometimes it’s about ending on time.

One of the questions I ask in my pre-program questionnaire for speaking engagements is, “Based on other programs your people had attended with an outside speaker, what did they like most? Least?”

The top of the most disliked things:  speakers who speak past the ending time for a session (FYI, the number two most disliked thing is when a speaker reads his or her PowerPoint slides).

If you are in Toastmasters, you have been trained to speak within an allotted time,   typically 5-7 minutes for a prepared speech. This “specific allotted time” mindset can be problematic when the schedule needs to be adjusted (for example, if other speakers speak too long).  You definitely do not want to be the speaker who stands between your audience and lunch (or, going home).

See How to Adjust your Speech When Your Allotted Time Changes for what you can do as a speaker.

What if you are planning a business or conference meeting?

1. Address timing. Proactively address the timing issue with all participants and having a timer who signals time (can use green-yellow-red folders to indicate nearing the end).  Communicate how going over time will be handled.  Using a direct, “Thank you.  Your time is up” and clapping for people who go 30 seconds over is one way to handle it.

2.  No additions. Resist allowing additional speakers on the agenda without prior approval.

3. Cut.  If additional speakers are allowed, cut elsewhere to make up time, if needed.

4. Adjust. If the meeting threatens to go over time, adjust on the fly, cutting time allotments and possibly entire reports, with a plan for how necessary information will be distributed later.

A wise person once said, “The mind can absorb no more than the seat can endure.”

Be brief.  Be seated. Let your audience go on time! (or, even a little early . . . nobody ever complains about a meeting ending 5 minutes early).




7 Days, 42+ Speeches: Differentiate or Die


Differentiate or Die.  With all the speakers out there, you need to be different to stand out and be remembered.  Ideally, you would have a unique presentation on a unique topic.

That’s the number one thing I learned last week when I listened to 42+ speeches in 7 days.  Live.  And, I analyzed and wrote critiques for 36 of them.  Only a few stand out in my memory.

If you’re curious, here is the breakdown:

  • 27 High School Capstone Speeches
  • 8 Speech Class Speeches
  • 1 Business Meeting Speech
  • 2 Toastmaster Club Speeches
  • 4+ TLI (Toastmaster Leadership Institute) Speeches

The ones I remembered best had something different about them right from the start.  And, for the ones I evaluated that didn’t stand out, I had suggestions!

I’ve mentioned ways to open with a bang before, no matter the topic (questions, startling statements, stories, quotes and poems, and jokes)

Here are a three additional ways to differentiate yourself:

PROPS:  One memorable way to be different is by the skillful use of a prop.  People remember props.  But, try not to use something you’ve already seen.  For example, in a senior high school girl’s capstone speech project at her Christian school, the young lady wanted to open with asking the question, “Is this glass half full or half empty?” while holding a glass half-filled with water.  Of, course she wanted to make the point that it was all how you looked at it and looking at life with a “half-full” attitude was better.

The only problem with this approach was that it was too familiar.  Not different.  So, I suggested that she still ask the question, “Is this glass half full or half empty?” But provide an unexpected answer:  “The glass is completely full.  It is filled part way with water and the rest of the way with air.  God is like the air in our glasses.  He can completely fill us.”  When I suggested that change, her eyes got wide and she said, “Yes!”

ACTING OUT:  Another student had a speech in which Satan was influencing her thinking one way and God was influencing her thinking another way.  I suggested she use her hands as “puppets,” one on the left side of her head and the other on the right and act out the “voices” of Satan and God.

SINGING (only do this if you have a good singing voice):  Another student talked about how he felt led to join the Marines.  I suggested he sing the first stanza of the Marine’s Hymn.

What other ways have you seen speakers differentiate themselves?  What do YOU remember?