Last year, I wrote about my talk preparation process. I mentioned that I try to practice my talk verbatim a bunch of times, especially the night prior.

I have been trialling out a new strategy for my talks recently and I think it works really well.

During one of my practice runs, I keep a notepad beside me and jot down a few key slides in my talk. The more evenly-spaced out they are, the better. I then set a stopwatch (I use Timely), and start practicing.

Once I hit those slides I have written down, I put that down as a lap and jot the time down across the slide number. I keep on going until I finish the whole talk.

Keeping time (and please pardon my handwriting)

I try to do this at least twice – the more data points the better! I found out that my lap times tend to diverge +/- a minute or so on each iteration. Once I am happy with the general timing, it’s time to make the times official!

I then add the times to my speaker notes, making sure I use a BIG FONT so that it’s easy to read.

Time for a time check!

I find that having those time checks in there help make sure that I pace myself well during the actual talk. I tend to speak fast when I am nervous, so knowing that I am going at the right speed helps calm me down a bit.

I cannot rely on just the number of slides remaining, as some take longer or shorter than others (I had a slide during my talk at Mobile Refresh Wellington that took me two minutes to get through 😝). Having the time written down means I can concentrate on what I have to say without worrying about timekeeping in my head!

Bonus tip: Taking a sip of water helps calm down the nerves! Highly recommend to add “WATER BREAK! 🥛” notes as well.