Avoid Ticking Off an Event Coordinator With This One Tip

What is the one thing that is sure to tick an event coordinator off?

Not watching your time.

As I mention in The Epic Keynote (see chapters 1 and 5), you might not realize that watching your time is as important as it is. It’s important to the person who hires you, to the person running the meeting and also, in some cases, important to the audience.

Why is time important?

Imagine you are part of a multi-day event. You speak at lunchtime on day two and because your session runs long, the entire afternoon’s time gets messed up. You could have been the top rated speaker of all time for that conference, but if you didn’t have the planner’s permission to run long, that will be all he or she remembers about you. You don’t want that because:

  1. It’s bad for your reputation.
  2. You will never ever get asked back.

Running long is sending the planner a message that says “my speech and my ego are far more important than your schedule for this event.” It makes people think you are self-absorbed. Is that really the impression you want to leave?  And Joe Calloway says, “Don’t ever ask the audience for permission to go longer, they are not in charge of the schedule, always check with your key contact.”

Bottom line, stick to the time they have given you and be prepared to cut something from your speech in case the person ahead of you runs long. It is not unusual to be told 15 minutes before show time, “You need to cut 20 minutes, the President ran long.” You must be professional and say “no problem!” If you develop your program in chunks or modules, it’s easier to lengthen or shorten a presentation on the fly. (Learn more about chunks and modules in my latest book The Epic Keynote.)

[Tweet “If you develop your program in modules, it’s easy to lengthen or shorten a presentation on the fly @janeatkinson”]

How much time have you have been asked to cut your presentation by right before a talk? What tips do you have for others when it comes to staying on time? Let us know in the comments below!


  • Kent Dean

    Sound advice that hearkens back to grade school. You can do great and inspiring work and still fail if you don’t turn it in on time. For a two-hour presentation, you should be able to shave 30 minutes without much effort. For me, there’s always the normal introduction and conclusion and a condensed version of each. For each illustration I use, I strive to have a condensed back-up if needed. Some illustrations – and even modules – are completely unnecessary to the overall value, despite our thrill of delivery. 😉 Truthfully, most presentations improve with more editing. Better to leave the planner happy and the people hungry than the people raving and the planner seething.

    • speakerlauncher

      Thanks Kent, sound advice!