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End Your Meeting on Time: Use a PowerPoint Countdown

Unless you prepare extensively for a presentation, it's very difficult to know how much time you really need in a meeting. Plus, it can be really embarrassing to go long, especially when your audience has back-to-back meetings scheduled. So the next time you have to deliver a PowerPoint presentation, you can display an unobtrusive timer on screen to help you stay on track.

There are several ways to track your time in PowerPoint.

  • The easiest way is to use a tool built right into the program -- you can insert the time on screen. To do that in PowerPoint 2010, click the Insert tab and then click Date & Time. On the Slide tab of the Header and Footer dialog, check Date and time and then choose an option for time (as opposed to the date) from the dropdown. Click Apply to All, and the time will now appear at the bottom of every slide. As long as you know what time you are scheduled to be done with your pitch, you can stay on track.
  • If you can't trust yourself to read a clock and would rather see an actual timer ticking down to zero, you'll need to look outside the box. There's no timer control built into PowerPoint, but you can easily install an add-on. Try TM Timer, for example. This timer is free to try for 30 days, after which it costs $30. Not only can you specify the duration and how frequently the display gets updated, but you can even optionally force the presentation to end when the timer runs out.
  • Finally, if you don't mind giving up direct control over the timing of your slides, there's one other option: You can use PowerPoint's Rehearsal mode to specify a specific timing for each slide, and let the presentation advance itself according to that timing.
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