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What if your Speech is Too Short? | Media Training | Public Speaking | Presentation Skills

Lee writes in with the following question: what do you do when your speech is shorter than you thought? For example, I am supposed to give a 45 minute speech but it only takes 20 minutes so you have to either push it longer or be embarrassed. And you don’t realize this until the day of the speech.

Lee, I am glad you figured this out before your speech because for many people, the first time they give their speech is in front of a love audience. At that point, it is too late and it feels awkward.

I would ask you to go back to the fundamentals here and ask yourself: what is it that you want your audience to do and the messages you want to convey. If they seem to be less, then instead of adding more messages, add more stories to flesh out your messages. When I end up having more time than I expected to have, I give even more examples and case studies pertaining to my topic. So it is like an accordion: you can either stretch out the same three topics or summarize them according to time.

The other thing is that do not be afraid to use this time to ask or take questions to or from the audience so you can engage them more.

Another thing to realize is that a speech should take more time than practice because you should be walking around more, taking pauses, and taking questions from the audience.

But the bigger time issue is that people tend to rehearse slides only in their minds and when they go up to speak, it ends up taking way more time.

At the essence of it, if you end up achieving your goal of conveying your messages in 20 minutes instead of 45, it is okay to be short! I have never heard anyone say angrily, “I hated how that speaker gave us such meaningful and useful ideas in such an articulate and compelling way and let us out 20 minutes early”.

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