Keeping Time

Keeping time is a very important concept in Toastmasters.

A few years ago, I attended some corporate training on Communication and
Leadership skills. For one of the exercises, we were split into small groups,
and each group was given a document of some twenty pages in length. The task
was simple: As a group, we had to review the document and then give a
ten minute presentation summarising the information we had read.

However, there was a catch: we would fail the task if we ran over the allotted time of
ten minutes! This challenge was a mixture of team-working, operating under pressure, and
presentation skills.

The group I was in was the only group to successfully completed the task. All the other groups ran wildly over the time allowed, which meant that at the ten minute mark they had to gabble as much information as possible, whilst apologising to the audience
and trainers for running over.

I didn’t find this task too challenging. I made sure that I volunteered to be
the last speaker in our group (we all took turns). I knew that my job would be
to wrap-up and finish on time with a suitable conclusion. I made sure that I
kept a careful note of the time we started and how long we had been running, so
that when I got up to speak, I knew exactly how long I had left.

How has Shropshire Speakers and Toastmasters helped with Keeping Time?

I would not have had these time-keeping skills were it not for my experience in speaking at
Shropshire Speakers. Keeping to time is a core concept that underpins all our

Shropshire Speakers' Mags O'Brien performing the Timekeeper role

Shropshire Speakers’ Mags O’Brien performing the Timekeeper role

Indeed, one of the club roles is to be Timekeeper, which means being
in charge of the Red-Amber-Green lighting system, and having the power to
‘buzz’ a speaker if they run even one second over the allotted time. Not only
does this practice keep our meetings running to time, but also ensures that our
speakers learn the importance of structuring speeches in order to effectively
fill the stage time they have been given. The use of the Red-Amber-Green
lights gives fair warning of how much time is remaining.

Running over time is one of the deadly sins of public speaking. Conversely, having a sound grasp of running time and finishing on time with a solid conclusion is one of the characteristics of an accomplished and experienced speaker. If you would like to learn more about public speaking and keeping time, then I recommend you attend one of our meetings to find out more.

Matt Hegarty, Shropshire Speakers Committee Member

Director at Bellaport Systems Ltd

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