“I always run out of time”

You put together an amazing design and your audience is completely engaged.  They’ve been participating throughout the session.  They’re loving it.  You’re loving it.  There’s only one problem.

You still have about 30 minutes of material left to present.  And you only have 5 more minutes remaining in your session.

Getting through your complete lesson requires time management on two fronts:

  1. Time management for the facilitator(s)
  2. Time management for the participants

Facilitator Time Management. As the facilitator, there are two points in time that are essential to your time management: 1. the planning stage and 2. the delivery.

During the planning, it’s a good idea to use a lesson plan in which you can estimate the amount of time you should spend on any given activity.  While some activities may take a little more (or a little less) time than you’ve estimated, you’ll know that if you want to get through your entire lesson, there shouldn’t be much variance from your initial plan.  Sometimes it’s difficult to estimate the time it will take to complete an activity, which is why it’s also a good idea to do a rehearsal in order to refine your time estimates.

During the delivery, it’s helpful to have a clock someplace in the room.  If there’s not a clock, then your watch or your mobile phone will do.  You’ll want to take your watch off or take your mobile phone out of your pocket and put it someplace where you’ll be able to check it discreetly.  If you get caught looking at your watch or pulling your mobile phone out of your pocket to check the time too often, your audience may feel you’re not very interested in them.

Participant Time Management. Breaking participants up for small group discussions, role plays, skills practice or other small group work is the best way to engage your audience and ensure they’re “getting it.”  However, this requires giving up some control.  It also requires active monitoring on the part of a facilitator to ensure the group is on task.  Giving clear instructions and a clear time limit are key pieces to successful small group work.  If the participants are not clear on how much time they’ve been given to complete the task or if they’re unclear on how much time remains to complete the task, small group activities can last much longer than you’ve budgeted in your lesson design.

The Mega Timer

The Mega Timer

Free Online Countdown Timer

Free Online Countdown Timer

When I break the audience up into small groups, I always show the audience exactly how much time they have for their work by using a Mega Timer placed conspicuously at the front of the classroom or by using an online countdown timer that can be displayed on the projection screen.

Do you have tips to stay on topic and on time?  Please add your thoughts to the comments section.

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