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Tightening your talk and delivering it within an allotted time is a vital speaking skill. When a presenter runs over the permitted time, it shows a lack of respect for the audience. Long rambling presentations very rarely impress, but instead can actually irritate an audience. Talking excessively does not increase the probability of an audience understanding or agreeing with what you have to say.

So, how do you ensure that you say enough without saying too much? Most of the time, if a presenter speaks too long it is because he or she hasn’t planned or rehearsed enough. Remember the 4 P’s: plan, prepare, practice and present. Don’t try to cover too much ground – three or four points is plenty. Once you have your presentation put together – practicing will ensure that your presentation is within the allocated time period. Practice, practice, practice.

But what if you are not assigned a specific time; how long should your speech be? The answer is – as long as it takes to provide your audience with a valuable message. Figure out what your audience needs to know, consider the fact that you don’t have forever, and then make the most of your time. You’ll get a lot more bang for your buck if you focus on the time spent preparing your speech, rather than the time spent giving your speech. If you stick to the topic and stay focused, you will never be in front of the audience for too long.

These same principles can be applied to business and personal conversations. Be cognizant of how long you speak and how best to get your message across when you are in meeting or on the phone.

If you have to choose between whether to talk more or less, pick less as most audiences have short attention spans. The goal is to make your speech memorable and leave them wanting more. Look at it this way: nobody has ever given a good speech that was considered too long, and yet, a bad speech is never over soon enough. And in the spirit of knowing when to shut up, it’s time for me to wrap this post up. I’ll leave you with a few thoughts to ponder.


Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand – Author Unknown

Be sincere; be brief, be seated – Franklin D. Roosevelt

A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest. – Winston S. Churchill


If you’re serious about advancing your skills and making an investment in yourself, we invite you to our Excellence in Speaking Institute. Classes are back in person and filling up quickly so don’t delay! Visit this page to read feedback from our graduates about their experiences.