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Tailoring your Talk when Time is Tight - 10 Tips for Presenters to Stay on Time


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Talking is an art. But talking on time is a science. Polished delivery of a prepared speech of 5, 15, or 30 minutes takes verbal skill, rehearsal, and focus to stay within time.

But for someone who’s time allotment has been slashed, trimming their prepared talk to fit the new time takes a blend of quick-thinking editing and amplified audience-engagement.

The program is running overtime and you’ve been told you only have 5 minutes to deliver your beautiful 20 minute speech/program/report! Here are some techniques to tailor your talk when time is tight.


#1. Keep it Focused On The Audience

When time is tight, the focus should be on the audience. Acknowledge their time constraint and assure them that you’ll keep your program in the new abbreviated time. Keep your quick talk squarely focused on their interest and needs. More than ever, it’s not about you. Trim-out any personal stories, humor, personality, or examples, and stick to the bottom line. You are just a messenger. What value can you provide and what are you here to share that they need to know? Visually “read the room” to see how much more information they can absorb. Or simply maintain a brief dialogue with someone of leadership in the audience to help keep your message targeted and on-time. “Is this important to you?” “Do we have time for me to share this?” Their answers will help guide the flow, and show that you care about their needs.

#2: Have an Executive Summary with a Focused Key Message

Executive summaries are valuable because they consolidate complex information into a few paragraphs. They’re easy to read and digest. For your talk, focus on crafting an executive summary for your presentation that highlights your #1 overall key message. Aim to find a core statement or critical message that hits home. This core statement could become the foundation- even the introduction- to your talk. Whether it’s a sales or marketing presentation, an inspirational or informational talk, or a financial/analyst presentation, a ready-to-go pre-made executive summary can help you talk with focus without getting flustered.

#3. Print Handouts & Share Where to get More Info

When talking time is tight, support it with handouts. Either as a digital file link, email, or printout, slide handouts can have notes, links, and supporting documentation to help fortify your high-level statements. By offering hyperlinks in your notes (to both internal and external resources), you can showcase your sources, and offer the audience a chance to dive-in deeper to learn about your topic and message. You can also post your full presentation online at or convert it into a narrated movie to be uploaded on YouTube.


For 6 other tips and details, check out

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Tailoring your Talk when Time is Tight - 10 Tips for Presenters to Stay on Time

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