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From the desk of Steve Lowell, Master Speaker and Mentor to those who speak in public.


Stay Within Your Time Limit. Always!

About thirty minutes before I began writing this section, I received a phone call from a friend who was scheduled to give a presentation that very evening. She asked me for some input on a few things. She shared with me that she’d been allocated five minutes for her presentation, but planned to “hijack” more time. I strongly advised against it, and I hope she heeded my advice. You’ll have to buy the next book to find out if she did or not.

In late 2007, my wife, Sharon, and I held a seminar. As part of our session, we invited two guest speakers, both of them doctors.

Before the event, I spoke directly with each of them, and we discussed their allotment of time, and their main topics. We reached an agreement on topics, and on a fifteen-minute time limit. We planned our session, in significant part, around the agreed-upon topics and time limits.

During the session, the time came up for the first guest speaker to take the stage. His presentation was outstanding! As he presented, I sat off to one side of the platform, beside his laptop computer. He had to walk over to the computer many times, in order to advance his slides.

After his allotted fifteen minutes, there was no sign of his presentation coming near an end. After twenty minutes had passed, I flagged him down when he walked over to advance his slides. “Hey Doc, you have to wrap it up,” I told him. He didn’t, and I signaled for him to end about a dozen times.

After forty-five minutes, he finally ended his presentation, so I walked out onto the stage and politely thanked him. For the past half-hour, the second guest speaker had been standing there, ready to present, but his allotted time was already long gone as well.

I felt that we had to honor our invitation to the second guest speaker, so I introduced him, and welcomed him to the stage. He, too, had agreed on a fifteen minute maximum, but took a full thirty minutes to complete his presentation.

The net result was that we weren’t able to include all of the information we’d planned for the seminar. The complete second half of our seminar was destroyed, because we weren’t able to squeeze it all in.

I learned two important lessons that day. The first lesson was that I won’t allow a guest speaker to hijack my meetings again. The next time, I’ll walk right out onto the stage if I must, and wrap their presentation up for them. The second lesson I learned was that I’ll never do that to anyone else. Never will I run overtime in a presentation. It’s disrespectful to the organizers, to all of the other speakers who must follow, and to the audience.

So, what’s the lesson? Be respectful; always stay within your allocated time limit.

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