So you have checked, double checked and (as I did) triple checked that your client definitely wants you to do a 20 minute speech.20 minutes

You have done all your preparation work, designed your talk and practiced it to ensure it gives across the desired message in the time allotted. You are ready.

You arrive at the venue and that’s when they drop the bombshell. “We need you to speak for 30 minutes”!

This is exactly what happened to me at a recent talk.

Did I refuse? Certainly not. It was very clear this had been an oversight by the booker and they were extremely apologetic about the whole situation. As a professional speaker I feel it is important that you do your utmost to help your client and make the event a success.

Added to this having done my homework weeks before I was aware of whom my audience was made up of and knew being helpful and obliging would earn me extra brownie points as well as potential new business.

30 minutesDid I panic? No. Though it made the mingling and chatting with delegates beforehand a little harder. I was quickly scanning my memory banks for sections of my speech that I had practiced and then either cut out or abandoned to keep to the original 20 minutes.

It definitely pays to have too much material that you then have to trim back than not enough. It leaves a resource pool you can call upon if it becomes necessary. In this case I was very glad of that resource.

Was it padding? Again No. Though it might have been easy to slow right down in delivering the speech, trying to eat up some of the extra minutes, I considered this a lazy option.

The whole crux was to make 1 valuable point and to do this the talk need to stay relevant, evenly paced and engaging. The pieces I sewed back in were an extension to the main story and, far from being irrelevant, gave me the opportunity to expand on the 1 point and enhanced the impact of the overall talk.

The result? The speech was a resounding success and it lasted exactly 30 minutes. I have had glowing reports and feedback on it since not to mention a few enquiries.

So my advice to any speaker would be to have enough subject matter to last for a good 15 minutes over the time you have to speak. You need to be a quite ruthless in editing back to the time you have been given but don’t completely discard the cuttings. Practice these too so you can recall them at very short notice should the need clipping

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