Speeches that are measured by the hour will die with the hour.
-- Thomas Jefferson
This is one of the first questions a speaker asks me. My glib, yet true, reply is always, “Long enough to get your point across and not one word longer.”
How many times have you heard a speaker go on terribly long-winded?
Don’t be that guy.
Then there is his opposite, the guy who is all facts with no room to breath.
He’s not the one to emulate either.
The problem with each is they leave their audience unchanged.
First of all, if you have an event planner, the question is answered. If they say 26 minutes, they don’t mean, “Shoot for 26 minutes.” They mean, “Speak for 26 minutes. Don’t speak 25 or 27 minutes. 26.” This makes it easy. No matter what you would have done if you were king, the declaration has been made.
Sometimes, though, the organizer will give you a ballpark. Often, a client will come to me and say they have between 15-30 minutes to talk. On my end, that’s a big difference. I will charge them twice as much for one than the other. More importantly, though, is that’s too vague. A 15 minute speech is wholly different than a 30 minute one.
If it looks like your material will go long, examine if you have more than one topic. Stick to one theme.
If you are short on content, you might simply need to change your theme. Avoid adding filler. Let your audience fill up with meat, not bread.
Ask your organizer, and be upfront if you find that time too long or constraining. Work out a compromise when, but honor that time.