We all worry as speakers about running out of time. What if my host cuts my time short? What if the audience asks too many questions and I fall behind? What we don't worry about enough is having too much time! What happens when you misjudge your time and finish too early?

Now, finishing early is usually better than finishing late. The audience will always appreciate being released five or ten minutes before they had expected to be done. But finish a half hour early, and now your value comes into question. If the audience is expecting an hour-long presentation and you finish with 20 minutes to spare, they might feel ripped off. So how do you ensure finishing close to the end of your time, but not so early that you leave people wondering what they missed?

Pointer #1: Time yourself

When you begin to practice your presentation, don't just time the whole thing, but also time each section. Then write these times into your notes or outline so you can easily see them during the presentation.

Don't forget to include time estimates for your opening and closing, group activities, breaks, and the question and answer period. Be realistic; a five-minute break will frequently take seven or eight minutes to get everyone back in their seats and paying attention.

Once you have a good idea of how much time each section will take, you can keep track of your progress during the presentation with a countdown timer.

Pointer #2: Have backup group activities planned

Group work is a great way to fill time, because the audience generally enjoys chatting with their neighbors about their own experiences. Have several activities of varying lengths that you can add in if necessary, or create activities that can be expanded easily.

For example, in one of my workshops, I have audience members give presentations in small groups. If our time is short, their preparation time is one minute and their speech is three minutes. If I have some extra time, their preparation time can be three minutes and their speech can be five minutes. It's an exercise that can expand into just about any time frame.

Pointer #3: Think in modules

Create segments or modules for your presentations that can be added or removed as needed. For example, if I have a lot of time left over, I can fill in some of it by inserting a module on storytelling, networking or preparation rituals, based on the direction the discussion has been going.

These modules might be part of a longer workshop or short presentations on their own, but when each section of your presentation is modular and can stand alone, it's easy to add or subtract. Remember to bring your notes for your additional modules so you can pull them out if you need them.

The key to not going over or under your allotted time is preparation. Take the time necessary to practice, time yourself and set up backup activities and modules, and your audience will never know that your timing wasn't perfect.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa Braithwaite works with individuals to uncover their challenges and build their strengths in presenting themselves confidently as speakers. Find your voice with public speaking coaching! Sign up for my newsletter and find out about my free consultation by visiting www.coachlisab.com.