How to Fill Extra Time When Teaching

Learn some fun ways to fill your time—whether you’re teaching or delivering a presentation.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #106

Today, I’ll answer a question that was posted by Deanne Smith, on The Public Speaker Facebook Fan page. She wrote, “I'm sure this doesn't happen to more experienced presenters...but what do you do when your presentation/speech/lecture doesn't take up the time allotted? Very embarrassing, very awkward...”

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What to Do When Your Speech Runs Short

Well, Deanne, as you know, I responded to your question very quickly. Mostly because, well, that’s not a question I commonly get asked. Generally people want to know the opposite…Is it OK to go OVER time? And I always say, you should NEVER go overtime.

When I responded to Deanne, I told her that if you have extra time at the end of a presentation, you can open it up to a discussion and ask the audience to share tips and ideas. I also added that finishing early is not a big deal because most audiences will appreciate that you respected their time. But it turns out that answer didn’t really help Deanna. She is a teacher and can’t simply let her classes go early.

How Teaching is Different than Presenting

Teaching is different from delivering a presentation. Especially in a classroom, you just never know ahead of time how engaged the students will be. You need to be prepared with additional materials and additional learning strategies so that you can reinforce the main concepts and ideas. One of The Public Speaker Facebook Fans, Akkana Peck, had the same advice. She wrote, "Usually I try to prepare too much material, with an ‘accordion section’ near the end. This can be stretched or compressed as needed or I add a bunch of ‘bonus slides’ past the final one."

How to Fill Time When Teaching

When I’m teaching I follow a similar tactic, but I don’t wait until the end. I create three or four timing break points during each classroom session. For each of the break points, I have accordion discussion questions available.

Though it depends on the subject or subjects that you are teaching, many topics do lend themselves to "discussion" questions. These are questions that relate to the topic at hand, but require the students to share an opinion or definition, or apply a concept learned or read about.

What does X mean to you? Do you think Y is important? Can you share an example of Z? Do you have any personal experience with this?

Depending on the group, some questions will create a big discussion, whereas others will lead to silence (unfortunately). That’s why I add in the several discussion questions throughout the lecture—ultimately my goal (again if it’s possible with the topic) is to have more of a conversation than a one-way communication.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.