Honor the Clock

Honor the ClockI was at a weekend event for teens once when the featured main stage speaker blatantly broke a cardinal rule of professional public speaking. He was fun and engaging. The kids seemed to like him and I thought his message was fairly good. But at some point he looked at his watch and realized he was running a little long. Rather than wrap it up he told the audience he was having too much fun and kept going…and going…and going. He ran past his allotted time by more than half an hour! Along the way he kept pointing out that he was running over his time. Event organizers were scrambling to adjust the schedule, kids were antsy and adult leaders like myself were just, plain pissed. Although I’ve since seen this guy speak at other events, I’ve never had any respect for him after that.

What is even more shocking to me is that the organization that booked him for that disastrous presentation continued to invite him back year after year! By contrast I attended a conference where organizers of the event were friends of mine. They had booked a nationally known speaker who was very good. He also ran over his allotted time but not nearly so long or blatantly. He had great stuff to say and the audience enjoyed the presentation. But because he disregarded the clock the organizers of that event blacklisted him and he never again spoke at any of their events.

You must honor the clock when you’re a presenter. Whether someone invites you to speak at their event or you’re presenting your own workshop, honoring the scheduled time is the mark of a true professional. Start on time and finish on time and your audience will thank you for it. All the great presenters have far more that could be said and, in fact, prepare more material than they will need. But they know when to quit. When time is up, time is up no matter how much the audience may seem to be enjoying your topic or how much more you have to say.

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