Basics of Public Speaking
~ A Step by Step Guide to Successful Presentations ~

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Lesson 3 - Effective Time Management in Public Speaking

Why do we fear speaking in public?

Many people fear public speaking because they think they will not have enough to say. They are afraid of finishing too quickly and then falling silent, as everyone in the audience watches. In my experience, this is not a realistic fear. In fact, in my observations over the years, most speakers try to say too much, and run out of time. So often, speakers have a very important point to make, but they run out of time to finish what their speech. Running out of time can be just as embarrassing as not having anything to say.

A simple solution

Fortunately, it is easy to prevent this problem. When you prepare, just use what I use, a good teacher's best friend - a watch! When you use a watch to time yourself, you gain very valuable information that most speakers never have. This knowledge will give you confidence when you speak, because you will know how much time you really need and you can plan well. To use a watch effectively, follow these steps.

First, time yourself as you practice your complete speech once. It is best to practice in front of a mirror while speaking out loud. As you practice, speak slowly and naturally, keeping your eyes forward. When you are finished with the whole speech, record the time you used. Beginners in public speaking think that time moves so slowly, but by timing yourself when you practice, when there is no pressure, you can see that time really flies!

Now that you understand how much time you need, start to look at each section of your speech - the intro, each main idea or example, and the conclusion - to see where you must either cut or add to your speech. A very general guideline to follow is that your introduction should be 10 to 15%, your conclusion should also be about 10 to 15%, with your main ideas totaling about 70 to 80% of your time.

One Last Tip

Keep in mind that you do NOT have to perfect with your timing. That would put too much pressure on you as the speaker. The goal is to be sure you have enough time to say everything you want to say. By preparing with a watch, you will always have more success in communicating your message. When you do that, you are ready to look at ways to make your speech even more memorable. That will be in Lesson 4 - Organizing Your Speech.

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