It’s about time!

It’s about time!

One of the defining characteristics of an Early Bird Speakers meeting is its emphasis upon time. Each week, we have but 95 minutes in which to entertain, inform, inspire and learn … before we head on out – jobs to get to, lives to lead, breakfast to eat! Our meetings are run with a silky smooth efficiency with a colour coded agenda designed to get as many people speaking as possible.

But what do theses “Greens”, “Ambers” and “Reds” really mean and how can they help our speeches?

There’s a misnomer that the Amber is your “target” or “optimum” time. This isn’t true! Your target time is in fact the Red. You’ve been allocated a certain amount of time on stage, so use it to the fullest to get across you message or story. The Amber is the “key point” time – a set marker in your speech where you reach the speeches main purpose and message before moving into summary or closing sentences – the “wrap up”.

In practice, RogerH describes it thusly:

“How many of us, when preparing a speech, make a note of the “key point” where we expect the amber light to come on? If we prepare for it, if when speaking, the amber lights up too soon we should know that we have to dump a paragraph or two, or a sentence or two, in order to conclude the talk at or when the red light shows. Or, if it comes on later than expected, we’re prepared to pad the conclusion to achieve the red light at the allotted moment.

An analogy: hot air balloon . . . . . have your ‘sandbag’ paragraphs identified . . . . . then you’re flying too low . . . . . know which sandbags you can jettison to keep flying safely. Alternatively, if you’re flying too high, fluff and flutter the burner to resume normal altitude.”

Why is this useful to our speeches?

Becoming attuned to your own internal metronome is a useful speech skill in itself to gain a better understanding of your pacing:

“Do you ever listen to the BBC Shipping Forecast? The presenters are not professional speakers or professional broadcasters. They’re meteorological officers from the Met Office. If you listen carefully to their broadcasts, for example at 05:21 on BBC Radio 4, you’ll identify the “key points” as they speak. They probably have several greens and ambers annotated on their scripts. You’ll notice them speed up or slow down so that after the allocated nine minutes, invariably, they’ll bring home the presentation within two or three seconds of their concluding target time. Bear in mind that much of the information is published only twenty minutes before broadcast – not much time to prepare, eh?”

This is particularly useful during contest season where 30 seconds over the red means disqualification, (as too does 30 seconds below the green). And yet, so many of the best speakers, evaluators, table topics experts go into the Red; stopping short of disqualification by seconds. Risky? Perhaps. But this tactic allows them to pack in the extra content; extra content that could make the difference on the podium!

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