20 December 2015

When Speakers Go Overtime

I was at a conference recently. In this conference, there was an invited speaker, who delivered a talk, longer than the other speakers. After all, this speaker was invited, which meant that his talk had a longer time slot than the other talks. However, what happened was that this speaker went severely overtime. He even took all the time allotted for his question period, that there was only a couple of short quick questions allowed. Somehow, that fact made my impression of this speaker go down immediately.

See, as much as you are the invited speaker, I think it is still human consideration and politeness to keep yourself to your allotted time limit. After all, there would be people who are interested in asking you questions, because they think your talk was interesting. If the moderator signals that you only have five minutes left, then at least make the effort to quicken up the pace and speed up. Instead, what this speaker did was just slowly work his way through the slides, in the same pace that he has been going, for the past 45 minutes.

See, once you go overtime, then people's respect for you as a professional goes down. Yes, you have good work, important stuff, yet we all have time limits, and it is generally impolite to grab the time that is allotted for someone else. You would expect that a person who has been in academia for a long time would already know this, but apparently that is not the case.

I don't know, I am trying my best to stay in academia, and hopefully I stay in academia for the next couple decades or so, but I hope that I don't get impolite and inconsiderate to other academics as I age.


  1. Respecting time limits (and word count requests in my trade) is absolutely essential. It's not a good sign when you can't be concise anyway. TED talks are great for that, they show that skilled speakers can get to the point fairly quickly.

    1. Zhu,

      Apologies for the late response, as I was on the road last week. But yes, it is essential, not only as a courtesy to your audience as well as to the next speaker, but it really affects the opinions of your audience if you are extremely overtime. I agree that if you know your material very well, there is a way to present it in short and long time periods.