The Oddly Difficult Role of a Timekeeper

How hard can it be to set your timer to two minutes and then, when it finishes, let people know that time is up?

Believe it or not, this particular position is one that people consistently have an issue with fulfilling. And even though I’ve ramped up almost 50 forums, it still makes me laugh every time we get to the timekeeper role, and someone messes it up.

So why is it so difficult?

In reflection, I found two main reasons people struggle with this role.

  1. People Forget – many people forget to set/start the timer at the beginning of each section, so the time is off right from the beginning. This is because many sections are only two or three minutes long and back to back, so it’s easy to forget to set it each time.
  2. No Warning Signal – it is typically good for the timekeeper to signal when either one minute or 30 seconds of time is left. This gives the presenter a chance to wrap things up based on how much time is left. But without the signal, the presenter has no clue how much time is left until the alarm for the timer goes off, which means the presenter will either get cut off mid-sentence at an awkward moment or ramble on a bit longer to warp up what they were saying.

The timekeeper struggles with both of these issues because they are either spaced out of the conversation or are deeply engaged in the conversation. Both will cause someone to forget. Unfortunately, there isn’t a silver bullet that solves this situation. However, with practice, time-keepers do get better at remembering, so don’t give up too soon.