The other day someone asked me for advice. He had wanted to give a speech that would last about 4-6 minutes, but instead the speech went for almost eight minutes.

“What should I do?” he asked.

“Slow down,” I said.

Wait a second, shouldn’t I have told him to talk faster? Why did I tell him to slow down? Wouldn’t that make the problem worse?

No.

Often, when people go over the time limit, their first reaction is to think, “I need to go faster, I need to go faster. Faster, faster, faster, faster.”

But remember, the audience needs time to think. Unless you want them to go home and forget what you said, you need to give them time to think, time to absorb your words.

If you are going overtime, you are probably trying to cover too much information.

So do some heavy prioritization, some heavy triaging. You know, triaging, like in those war movies, where the medic is crawling down a line of wounded soldiers (the medic is crawling because he’s trying not to get hit by bullets himself), and he looks at each soldier for just a couple seconds before making life and death decisions: help this one, help that one, that one’s too far gone, let him die, etc.

Treat your points like that medic treats the soldiers. If you started with five points, cut it to three points. If you started with seven points, cut it to four points (or even better, three).

Create space. Create space for yourself to go slow, to relax, to breathe. You’ll be happy you did, because you won’t get so tired up there on stage. And more importantly, your audience will be happy you did, because they’ll have time to think about what you say.

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.