Timing your pitch with glances

After years of practice, when you’re pitching something you know really well, you will eventually unlock mastery and be able to give the whole pitch without ever looking back at your deck on the screen.

Until then, you can use the frequency of your glances at the slide deck as a handy indicator of how long your pitch is taking and whether you’ll be over or under time.

Glancing back at your deck is generally a bad thing, as is anything else that breaks your eye contact with your audience — the invisible magic conduit that carries meaning, emotion and engagement from you to them. But we pretty much all do it.

In my observation, most of us have a consistent rate of deck-glancing. For me, when my material is new, I tend to glance back about once every 30 seconds. (I’m not sure why I do that, but I think it’s because I want to be sure I haven’t accidentally advanced or regressed the slides.)

So if I’m presenting a deck of eight slides and glancing back every 30 seconds, I know I’m running to roughly four minutes if I see the next slide every time I glance back.

If four minutes for eight slides is a little faster than I’d like, I know I’m on track for six minutes if I see the same slide a couple of times when I glance back.

And if I see the same slide more than twice when I glance back, I better get a move on!

Ask someone to observe your pitch and give you an estimate on how frequently you glance back.