One of the main annoyance factors about many presentations is that they finish late. This shows a total lack of respect for the audience, who most likely have something else to do afterwards, and are probably bored of listening anyway. I have been in this situation, and don’t remember anything about the last part of those talks except my extreme annoyance and frustration.
Don’t overrun. Under any circumstances. Don’t even ask permission to overrun, because many of your audience members will sheepishly accept in order not to annoy you, but they will resent you for it.
Another problem is that in a huge effort to avoid overrunning, many presenters will rush through the last part of their presentations, which are often the most important parts, and thus sabotage their conclusions. This isn’t any better than overrunning.
My advice is threefold:
- Plan not to fill the whole time. If you have 15 minutes, plan to speak for 8 or 9 minutes and leave time for questions (and prepare a few sample questions in case your audience doesn’t ask any). That way if things take a bit longer than you planned, you still won’t overrun.
- Time your presentation (you are planning to rehearse it several times, aren’t you?): split it into certain sections, time each section during rehearsals, and watch the clock while you are presenting so you know whether you are ahead of time or not.
- Plan a part of your presentation which is towards the end (but not part of the conclusion) which you could easily decide to skip if required. This way, you don’t rush anything, you just miss out a particular message which is perhaps not so important. Often I will do this by skipping over videos or only showing part of them, for example.
If you follow these tips, you should be able to pace your presentation well, avoid rushing anything, and finish in good time to allow your audience to ask questions – and to leave on time. They’ll be most grateful.