If you’ve ever been to anything that finishes late, you know how frustrating it is. Maybe you have a specific train you must catch followed by dinner plans when you get back. The organiser of the event has said that things will finish at 4, but it runs over to 4:30. You miss your train and dinner plans are a thing of the past.
As the organiser of the event, it can be really easy to forget how important finishing on time is. Everything is running a bit over, but you have one last thing you want for your attendees. But if you have 100 attendees and finish 30 minutes late, you have just wasted 3000 minutes of your attendee’s time! How do you keep things on time so you can fit everything in?
1. Let Your Speakers Know
It sounds obvious, but your speakers are the people that will be delivering the content for your event. Let them know that your timings are strict timings, and that you will stop them if they run over! Not only is it unfair on the other speakers and the audience if they run over, it also harms your reputation. It’s your responsibility to make sure things run on time, and letting your speakers know how much time they have and how serious you are will help prevent any embarrassing interruptions.
2. Have A Public Agenda
Some events have a detailed agenda that the people behind the scenes know, but it isn’t shared with the attendees. There is something psychological around public information – it seems to hold more weight. Your backstage team and speakers may know when things should move on, but because the audience doesn’t know it won’t really matter if one thing is 5 minutes over. But it really does matter. Do this a few times over a day and your event is half an hour late to finish. To combat this, and you don’t already give your agenda out to your attendees, then give it a go. Not only will people know what to expect, your backstage team and speakers will be more likely to keep things in time because everyone will know when they are late.
3. Put More Detail In The Agenda
Imagine two agendas. The first one states “Some speakers speaking about global warming – 3 hours”. The second one states “10:00 – Simon Burgess – The affect of global warming on woodland wildlife, 10:50 – Elizabeth Green – What we can do now to save the woodland wildlife, 11:35 – Clare Duffield – How we can reduce our carbon footprint…” etc. Which event is more likely to finish on time? Of course the second one is. Everyone knows exactly when they will be starting, when they are finishing, and what is coming next. If you tell 3 speakers to speak for 3 hours, maybe they will each take 40 minutes, or maybe they will each take 80 minutes. Telling 3 speakers to speak for 1 hour each is much better. Better still is to make their time to speak an odd number, especially if it ends in a 5. This gives the illusion of having a much more precise agenda and they will be more likely to stick to it.
4. Use A Timer
We have to include this, given that it’s what we’re best at here at Presentation Timer. Giving all your speakers and backstage team a common, definitive timer probably has the biggest impact on whether things will run on time or not. You could put a tablet on the stand or a visual monitor at the front of the stage so all your speakers can see the timer and know how long they have left. Flash cards kind of work, but they can be distracting for the audience, and are only any good for the end of someone’s talk. Speakers can’t use flash cards to make sure their content is spread out throughout their talk. Obviously we are biased, but we’re surprised more people don’t use a global timer for their event. Your backstage crew need to know what’s happening. The host needs to know whats happening. Whether you use Presentation Timer or not, invest in a decent timer that everyone can use.