Put yourself in Professor Val’s shoes. What would you do if you signed a contract to speak for one hour and have been paid, yet the audience got tired after 35 minutes? Would you hastily conclude your presentation to please the audience and face possible refund, or would you bore the audience to sleep to justify the money? Professor Val was definitely between a rock and a hard place?
As it has become our tradition in this series, we shall state the rule Professor Val obeyed, then we shall discuss the exception to that rule. Professor Val obeyed the rule which says, “A speaker must be mindful of time and limit his/her presentation to the time allotted”. Nevertheless, he neglected the exception to the rule which says, “A speaker must finish speaking before the audience has finished listening”.
We cannot overemphasize the fact that a speaker’s success or failure is determined by the audience. If you have the most important information to pass across and the audience isn’t interested in listening, what do you do? In the case of Val, here are a few things we should learn:
1. No organizer likes a sleep audience: Val may have merited his contract-fee by completing his one hour, but guess what will happen when next the organizer is shopping for a speaker? He would definitely be bypassed because he failed to connect with the audience. This fact makes it easy for us to see that completing our allotted time is not as important as communicating with our audience. We shouldn’t get carried away with time; we must focus on our audience.
2. Learn relative importance: relative importance generally means measuring the significance of something in relation to something else. A speaker must learn to measure the significance of his/her presentation in relation to the time given. If you are given one hour to discuss an activity you carried out for five years, then you know that you have to select only the important aspects of it. If you have just five minutes to contribute to a discourse, you must leave out history and procedures. Begin with the most important aspect, and if there is some time left, highlight the procedure.
3. If they don’t feel you, draw them out: when Professor Val realised that he wasn’t communicating with his audience, he should have used a lot of illustrations to make his point. Illustrations always simplify seemingly complex issues. Also, he should have engaged them by turning the rest of his time to a discussion session. He could have asked questions and let them respond, and also allow them to ask him questions.
Time management is not only when we don’t exceed the time we are given; it is more importantly our ability to know the right time to stop.
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