If you’ve missed the first three installments of this topic you can find them here (one, two, and three). Today I’ll be talking about another bad practice in public speaking. It’s an easy idea (certainly not my own) and you’ve all experienced the other end of this all too frequent occurrence. Do you remember sitting in a classroom, listening to a professor speak about some topic, when they finish talking about what they’d prepared but try to talk on endlessly about something you won’t even be tested on and isn’t really related to the topic of the day? That’s what I’m talking about. What’s even worse is when they keep you over time while talking about nothing. This principle is simple: when you’re finished, finish.
This is one of the issues that bothered me at the speaking event I attended. The material really only seemed to be about 1 hours worth… but the speaker kept speaking for another 3 hours. So, part of this is preparation. You need to practice your speech or presentation and you need to make sure that you don’t speak longer than your allotted time limit. You also need to, in an educational (and also professional) context, speak for the full length of time that you are scheduled for. However, if you speak a little shorter than you had planned it’s better just to finish. Don’t go on and on with unplanned and unprepared content: just stop. Perhaps you’ll have the opportunity for an impromptu question and answer session. Perhaps the applause will be longer. Perhaps you’ll more quickly escape the misery of public speaking (I actually like it). Whatever you do try not to waste anyone’s time. Time is important. Allow me to put on my teacher hat for a minute: don’t go over your time limit if there are other people presenting on your presentation day. Seriously. I’m already working out a schedule for this next semester’s class and I’d rather not change it because you didn’t rehearse your speech.