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If you promise a break, don’t break your promise

When the time’s right, I do enjoy a nice cup of tea or coffee, and I’m sure you do too. But I emphasise the word ‘time’ in that sentence, because this little thought is all about timekeeping in front of an audience.

I was at a big training event a couple of years ago. The agenda looked pretty challenging. An intro from the organiser, then three speakers back to back, followed by a break for coffee, and two more speakers. Things didn’t get off to a promising start — the organiser’s intro over-ran, a couple of minutes were lost when the first speaker couldn’t work the powerpoint, before she then overran. The next two speakers were having so much fun chatting away on stage that they overran too.

At this point, to my relief, the organiser stepped in and pointed out that things were overrunning a bit, but then, to my horror, in a jolly tone, told us that we’d just skip the coffee so we could get the rest of the speakers in before lunch. At this point I was very naughty and hatched a plan to sneak out at the next possible moment and find some coffee for myself in a cafe over the road. I just wasn’t taking anything in any more.

Several months later, at a very buzzing Business Breakfast, a more surprising problem. The host popped up between speakers to explain that she was sure we’d all understand, but it looked as if we’d not finish on time because things were running away from us a bit. Well, I did mind actually. I had planned a Business Meeting, to follow on from my Business Breakfast, at 10am.

A few weeks after that, in a startlingly warm hotel in Copenhagen, a sixty minute Q&A with a fascinating guest, including questions from the audience, finished bang on time. Very Danish, I thought. But because the fascinating guest had taken up 58 of those minutes, there was only time for one question.

Maybe this all puzzles me because I work in a TV newsroom two days a week, where 1.28pm, 6.28pm and 10.28pm are simply non-negotiable. (When I worked at a rather fun national radio station the deadlines were every half hour.) Or maybe I’m just a bit uptight and need a nice cup of tea to relax. But I suspect I’m not alone. Come along to my next Newsroom Bootcamp for Business* and we can practice confidence with timekeeping together. Breaks — and plenty of tea and coffee — included.

*just tap this into Eventbrite and you should find more details and some nice photos of the last one in January.

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