Hara hachi bu (腹八分)

What is the art of good comedy?


I know it’s an old joke but it’s apposite. The art of a good presentation is also timing. 

There is no-one, not one single person, who should over run their time slot. I’ll say that again. Who ever you are and whatever you have got to say, say it within the time you have allotted  If that is five minutes then, by five minutes you will have finished. If you have been given 20 minutes, that means at 20 minutes the next person will be beginning. If you have been gifted an hour, then within those 60 minutes you may take the audience to heaven and back, but not beyond 60 minutes. There are lots of reasons for this and although some are obvious many of them bear repeating.

If you are part of a group of speakers, the organisers have planned their meeting precisely. Catering, networking, travel and even the booking of the room are directly affected by over running. If there are twelve speakers and each “only over run by 5 minutes” that’s an hour, a missed connection, an extra room fee, dinner spoilt, romantic meeting missed, a child’s play or even just time in the bar. You may feel that you deserve longer, that your information, knowledge and passion is so worthwhile that people deserve more of you. Go ahead and ask the audience, you may be surprised by the answer. 

Realistically, we all have the attention spans of a goldfish and most allocated slots are longer than this. The value of your presentation is only decreased by over running. It directly affects the audience. It may impinge directly on the next speaker who also may believe that the audience deserves to hear her information, knowledge and passion. And audiences hate it too. They really will not thank you.

Why does it happen? Actually I don’t think it is due to ignorance, selfishness or arrogance. In the majority of cases. It happens because you didn’t practise. You simply don’t know what you are saying or how long it will take. So practise and get your timing right. My best advice is finish early. Deliver your key fact and leave them wanting just a little bit more, not stuffed and bloated, overwhelmed and bored but excited and intrigued.

Hara hachi bu as The Sensei says. Enough, but not too much.

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