Normally when giving some form of public presentation, you’ll be told to prepare to a set time limit. If not, it’s worth asking in advance so that you know:
- How long you should be talking for;
- Whether there will also be time given for questions;
- What are the key points to convey?
Some people choose to write notes, whereas others write out a whole script. We don’t recommend that you read out your talk word-for-word, but if it helps you plan your talk then it may be helpful to work out how many words to aim for. A comfortable speaking pace is around 120-140 words per minute, meaning:
- Around 650 words for a 5 minute talk
- Around 1,300 words for a 10 minute talk
- Around 2,300 words for a 20 minute talk
If you’re trying to get an idea for how many words you can comfortably write for your timeslot, try this online calculator.
In some situations, you may find yourself explaining something complicated to an audience, or something that you expect may lead to a number of questions.
Normally, it’s advisable not to take questions anytime during your presentation as this can interrupt your flow and it may be that you need to communicate additional information that answers a potential question. That’s not to say that you can’t take questions at one or more particular points though. When preparing the structure to what you’re saying, you can choose to build in opportunities for people to ask questions. Doing so can also help to clearly separate different sections of your presentation/talk.
Whether or not you intend to take questions during your talk, we recommend making this clear at the start. When you next deliver public speaking, try saying like this early on: “I’d love to take any questions after each section of my talk today so I’ll check in each time” or “I’d really value any comments or thoughts that you have and would appreciate it if we could take those at the end please.”
If you’re in the spotlight – whether that’s on Zoom or in person – it’s very common to speak faster than you might normally, and to skip pauses. But, for the audience, pauses are an important way of making sense of what you’re saying, because pauses help to emphasise key points and separate one sentence from the next.
Next time you’re delivering a presentation in person, try counting slowly to 3 in your head when you finish before returning to your seat. This helps to round off your presentation with confidence and a positive impression by conveying that you’re comfortable, rather than rushing to be out of view too soon.