What To Do When Your Speaking Time Gets Reduced

man speaking to a group of people

by Dr. Jim Anderson

How much time do you think that you’ll be given to deliver your next speech? I’m willing to bet that the original amount of time that you are told that you’ll have will more often than not turn out to be more than what you actually end up with despite the importance of public speaking. As speakers, this happens so often to us that we really need to come prepared to deal with this situation.


You Need A Concise Understanding Of What You’ll Say

As a speaker, you don’t control how much time you are going to be given to present your next speech. What you need to do is to make sure that you are prepared to make changes when you are told that you have less time than you were expecting. This all comes down to creating a single sentence that encapsulates the true meaning of your next speech.

This sentence has to be less than 20 words long. If you told it to someone they would have to understand what you are saying and they’d have to be able to repeat it. This sentence contains the core of the idea that you are going to want to communicate in your speech – hopefully you’ll have more time than just one sentence to give it.

It’s Got To Be Declarative

The form that your single sentence speech takes is critical. It has to be declarative. What this means for you is that it has to be the answer to a question. In your single sentence you have to stay away from using phrases that will weaken it like “in my opinion”, “I believe”, and “I think”. You have to be firm and very direct with your audience about your speech topic.

Anything You Say Has To Be Supportable

When we give speeches we generally like to make statements that our audience may or may not fully believe. After we do this, we then follow up our statement with proof in the form of either stories or examples. Clearly, if the amount of time that you’ll be allocated to give your speech is going to be reduced, then you are not going to have as much time to back up your main points. Take your time and choose which examples and which stories best support the speech that you are giving. Make sure that you use these ones in your limited time.

If You Say It, You Have To Own It

The speech that you give has to be your speech which represents your thoughts and feelings. Often times we’ll add additional things to our speech to support our position such as quotes or statistics. If the amount of time that you have to give a speech just got shorter, these are the things that you’ll need to drop. Keep the parts that clearly make this your speech and your thoughts.

Everything You Say Must Be Purposeful

This may be the most important part of your speech. Why are you giving it? What actions do you want your audience to take based on hearing your speech? These are all points that you have to be very, very clear about. No matter how little time you are given to deliver your speech, the purpose of your speech much be front and center of your speech.

What All Of This Means For You

I wish that I could tell you that I control the world. However, I don’t. I suspect that you don’t either. What this means is that the next time that we are asked to deliver a speech, the amount of time that we’ll actually be given may be a lot less than we were originally told that we’d have even though everyone knows about the benefits of public speaking. We need to be ready for this situation.

What this means for you is that you have to boil your speech down into a single sentence that captures its true meaning. This sentence has to be the answer to a question. You need to understand how you are going to support this sentence with examples and stories. You have to own what you are going to be saying: quotes and statistics won’t do it for you. Finally, you need to understand what you want your audience to do after they hear your speech.

One of the realities of life is that things change. In the world of speeches all too often this means that we find ourselves with less time to give our speech than we thought we would have. This should be no problem as long as you realize that this may happen. You can prepare for it and when it does happen, you’ll be able to adjust your speech so that it still delivers a powerful message to your audience.

About the author

Dr. Jim Anderson

“America’s #1 Unforgettable Business Communication Skills Coach”


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