Something I noticed at PresentationCampLA was that most of the speakers didn't have a system in place to keep track of their time. We regularly had to interrupt sessions and ask them to wrap up so we could move on with our schedule (which started out late as it was!).
I had my trusty timer with me and still managed to go over time by a minute, so imagine how much harder it is to stay on track with no clock or timer!
As a reminder about why it's important to keep to your time, I wanted to share this brief story with you from Rita Risser, The Court Jester.
"I was scheduled to speak last on a main stage panel where we were each supposed to talk for 10 minutes and then take Q&A for 30 minutes. The first two speakers spoke 10 minutes. The third speaker took 50 minutes, despite the fact that the meeting planner came in and told her to wrap it up. The meeting planner left and the speaker finally wrapped up at noon.
She turned it over to me, telling me to go ahead and speak, going over lunch. I smiled, said I knew better than to compete with lunch and that I would be available to anyone who wanted to talk that afternoon, or by phone or email. Results:
Audience laughed and clapped and ran out of the room.
Meeting planner couldn’t thank me enough for not talking.
Meeting planner changed the afternoon schedule and gave me 20 minutes to speak.
Several good contacts called and emailed afterwards.
Meeting planner asked me back the next year — and not the other speaker!"
It doesn't matter if you're the last speaker before lunch or the first speaker before coffee; going over time sets back the schedule, keeps the audience from making other sessions or getting to their next appointment on time, and makes you look inconsiderate at best and completely out of touch at worst.
First of all, practice your presentation so you know how long it takes. If it's long, cut, cull and edit your content so it fits. Keep in mind that audience interaction will take up some time, so make sure you have a cushion built in; practice finishing a little early to be safe.
Then, get yourself a timer, put your watch in front of you where you can see it, do whatever you have to do to end on time.
Audiences appreciate it, meeting planners love it, and you look like a hero!