As an event planner, you share a common challenge with your fellow planners:

How to keep your speakers on time (or at least within a range of tolerance).

You have more than enough on your plate to keep you busy, and the last thing you want to “worry” about is whether or not your speakers will be on time, stay on schedule, and deliver in a timely manner.

Yes, most speakers prefer the hands-off approach from most any event planner, but your audience is expected to be on time… so why not your speakers, too?

Overall, the event sessions need to be on time or stay within a tolerance level to run smoothly. You already know this. However, how do you keep your speakers on time?

In an effort to help you help your speakers, we’ve put together this list of tips.

Keep Your Speakers on Time

You want some practical ways to keep your speakers on time. You want your event to run smoothly. And you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, even when you have the event planned down to the minute.

If you’re like some of the best event planners in the industry, you know this is the life of an event planner.

And the goal is to make incremental improvements on the fly, which is where these 5 tips help keep your speakers on time.

#1. Clearly and Frequently Communicate Timeframes

Give your speakers everything they need to be successful at your event. While the focus is on delivering to the audience, focus on your speakers. Make them the heroes of the event, speaking to save the audience from whatever danger they may be dealing with at the moment.

Timeframes are crucial to keeping the event on schedule. Give your speakers their allotted time for the presentations. Also, give the speaker their start and stop times. For example, if a speaker is to talk for 25 minutes, you give them their window: 11:00am to 11:25am.

Finally, have a “time’s up” mechanism to let your speakers know when they’ve run over a bit. This can be a simple timer facing the speaker so that the audience cannot see. Or, it can be you tapping on a glass politely to let them know it’s time to end their presentation. Remember, above all else. Be professional with your “time’s up” mechanism.

#2. Create Buffer Room

In a perfect world, speakers would get on stage, give their presentations, and get off the stage within their allotted time. However, events tend to not go as smoothly as our calendar wants them to go.

With this in mind, create buffer room for your speakers. A buffer no more than 10 minutes should be enough to account for speakers going over their time and transitioning to the next speaker.

Remember to tell your speakers whether the time you’ve given them includes buffer room or not. Experienced speakers will give themselves buffer room. Telling them how you’ve set up their speaking window will give them more freedom to work within the parameters you’ve set.

#3. Use Timekeeping Devices

As mentioned in tip #1, use timekeeping devices. You can set up a screen, a clock, or even a quiet buzzer to inform the speakers of their remaining time and overtime.

You can also ask the speaker how they plan on keeping their presentation on time. This is a great way to empower your speakers to take ownership of their time on stage.

Offer a timekeeping device if your speaker does not have one of their own. This will give them a tool they need to make their presentation fit within the time limit. Also, offering a solution in the face of a problem will build trust and rapport.

#4. Incorporate Visible Signals

Something as simple as you raising your hand, holding up one finger, can indicate the speaker has 60 seconds left to wrap up. Use these types of signals to keep communication between you and the speaker wide open.

Another way you can use signals is with predetermined cues. Cue cards can be a huge help to you and the speakers. Discuss your cue cards with the speaker prior to them starting their presentation so that the two of you are on the same page.

Consider more than one signal per presentation. For example, a hand signal could be five minutes left. A cue card could be 60 seconds left, and both hand and cue card could mean they’re in overtime. Whichever signal strategy you use, make sure the speaker understands how it works.

#5. Get On Stage

In rare cases, you will have a speaker miss the timeframe, ignore your signals, and continue to talk. While this is not the norm, you will need to take action. Prior to the presentation, tell the speaker that if they go over time, eat up the buffer time, and continue on, you will get on stage with them to signal that their talk is over.

And then if they do go over time, you can respectfully but professional get on stage and stand next to the speaker. They will get the hint and wrap up quickly.


If you’re an event planner, than you know what it takes to make an event work. It can be challenging to get your speakers to stay on schedule within your event. You’ll find the takeaways from this article below on how to keep your speakers on time:

  • Clearly and Frequently Communicate Timeframes
  • Create Buffer Room
  • Use Timekeeping Devices
  • Incorporate Visible Signals
  • Get On Stage

Now that you know some ways to keep speakers on time, feel free to browse the speaker roster from Platinum Speakers Agency. Not only will you find some of the top speakers in the industry, but you will also know that your speaker will be on time and on schedule. Contact Platinum today to book a speaker for your next event.

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