Timer for Public Speaking





Introduction: Timer for Public Speaking

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

As a pastor I speak in public each week.  I need something to keep me aware of elapsed time while giving my sermon.  What I am offering here would help anyone who must speak before an audience and, yet, stay within time constraints.  The photo was taken by a friend at one of our worship services while visiting us. 

(Photo by Günter Peters of Wiesede, Germany)

Step 1: Use a Wristwatch?

Many simply take off their wristwatch and lay it on the pulpit or podium.  In my case, my sermon does not start at exactly the same time each Sunday.  Sometimes special events are inserted between the beginning of the service and the sermon.  And, I would need to make extra effort to remember where the minute hand is when I begin.  Also, the pulpit or podium may be slanted and the watch would slide down, maybe even fall off onto the floor once it begins to slide.

Step 2: Digital Timer?

I could use a digital timer, like this one.  But, it is handier if I can see something more visual than a row of numbers. 

(Photo is from Bing images)

Step 3: Rework a Quartz Clock Movement

There is a clock on the back wall of our church, but it is 75 feet away and not always that easy to read.  It also has some of the same problems as using a wristwatch. 

I bought a quartz clock movement for just a few dollars and made some modifications.  When the minute hand moves from the top corner of the movement to the one at the right, 15 minutes have elapsed.  If the target time is more or less than 15 minutes, it is still easy to make a rough visual approximation of where the hand should be.  I simply slide the red on/off switch to "on" when I am ready to begin.  The clock movement is held in place by a bent paper clip wrapped around the lamp support post.

Step 4: Open the Movement

My movement is held together by two snap tabs on opposite sides.  Pry them one by one so they release and allow removal of the back from the movement.

Step 5: The Inside of the Movement

I needed to add an on/off switch.  After opening the movement I looked for unused space to insert a small sliding switch from an old police scanner that quit working.  See the upper left of the movement case in the photo. 

Some quartz movements have loose reduction gears that may fall out when the case is opened.  In this movement, the gears are encased in clear plastic.  If the gears fall out of your movement, getting them back into their proper places is not as difficult as it might seem.  Within a couple of attempts you will have it working again when it is time to reassemble the movement. 

Step 6: Rewiring the Movement

The electrical conductor from the tip of the battery (top of the battery case at the right of the photo) is a shiny metal strip that runs to the red arrow.  I removed part of it (shown in gray) from the red arrow to the left.  It had made contact with the area on the circuit board shown inside the red circle.  You can see the conductor from the base or negative terminal on the battery at the center bottom of the movement case.  I soldered a piece of magnet wire to what is left of the conductor from the battery tip and connected it to one side of the switch.  The other side of the switch is connected by magnet wire to the spot on the circuit board in the red circle.  The movement is now controlled by the on/off switch I inserted.

Step 7: Mounting the Switch

Use a drill or a cutter bit on a Dremel tool to make an opening for the switch slide.  Drill holes in the movement case to match the mounting holes on the switch.  I applied a generous amount of hot glue to the inside of the movement case in the area where the switch would rest.  The hot glue oozed through the mounting holes in the switch inside the case.  While holding the switch in place I applied a little hot glue to the mounting holes on the top side of the movement case.  This forms some small, but effective hot glue rivets.  These have held up well for many years.  When the glue has hardened, close the movement case.  I wrote the words "off" and "on" onto a small piece of paper.  After trimming it I attached it to the movement with a piece of frosted tape.

Step 8: Bend the Minute Hand

Quartz clock movements come with an hour, minute, and second hand.  The hour hand is not needed.  I bent the minute hand so it closely follows the case of the movement. 

Step 9: A Use for the Second Hand

It takes a while to see if the minute hand has changed its position.  I wanted a way to know immediately that the timer is working when I turn it "on."  I cut the second hand to leave only a little of it.  When I turn the timer "on," the second hand should begin to turn immediately.  It automatically tells me the unit is working and I can rely on it. 

Step 10: When Finished Speaking

When I am finished speaking, I flip the switch to "off" and manually turn the minute hand back to the top corner of the movement case for the next use.  

If I did not speak from the same pulpit each week, but was speaking elsewhere, I could put an anti-skid material on the back of the movement and simply place it onto the podium surface.  To protect the hands, etc., I could place the quartz movement/timer into a small box that would fit into my coat pocket.  

This timer does not guarantee that my sermons are exactly a certain number of minutes, but it does keep me aware of how long I have been speaking so that I can move toward my conclusion. 

While you might not use this, consider making one as a gift for your pastor or anyone who does public speaking.



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    I made something similar a while ago, and this makes me want to go find it.v I really like this

    1 reply

    Thank you for looking and thank you for your comment. Many of us will likely find ourselves speaking before an audience more often than we expect during our lifetimes. I am glad you like it. If you needed to carry a timer like this to a place where you would be speaking, it would be possible to make it more fancy and add a lucite case. It would also be possible to add more markings on it, for say 10 minutes or 5 minutes, etc.

    Cool timer!!! I heard (it HAD to be a joke), of a minister who timed his sermons to match the melting of the mint/lifesaver that he'd place in his mouth at the beginning of each sermon. He accidentally placed a button (from his jacket pocket), in his mouth, and finally (after 1 hr and 20 min) a deacon had to give him the "times up" signal from the back of the sanctuary.

    5 replies

    Thank you, Barry. I have heard the same joke. I have been trying to include a joke in our church newsletter each month. There are some good religious or church jokes on the Internet. I will send you a couple by private message. This timer has been very helpful to me. I am surprised it has received as many views as it has. Perhaps more people are called upon for public speaking than I imagined.

    I think the thing about public speaking is the "fear factor". I think public speaking is the "number 1" phobia in the US. I occasionally tell the church how I ended up in ministry: When I was 3,4 and 5 years old, I HATED going to church. I think I even threatened to burn the building down!!!! I would rather be taken outside and recieve a spanking (remember when people used to do that?), than be stuck in there with "that guy" (the preacher) telling unfunny jokes, pointing out sins, and occasionally shouting to make a point , (and all the while, my parents or grandparents telling me to "hush"!!!)..... Then I realized, if I was the minister, I could stand up, tell unfunny jokes, and raise my voice (I'm still not a shouter), anytime I wanted, and there's nothing my folks could do about it!

    Barry, I do not know that I hated going to church. I remember being very bored one Sunday about age 4 and I acted out. My parents gave me several warnings. Then they took me out and broke a Playschool desk over me. Worse than that, they locked me in the car for the duration (a '39 Pontiac) and I was embarrassed for others to see me when they were leaving for their cars. Phil

    That is sooooo funny! Many years ago, I was once exiled (to a '67 Pontiac Executive), after "Sunday School" but before "Worship Services". I was a very eager participant in pre-school Bible class, (always answered Bible questions, and proposed a few questions of my own), but somehow that vocally displayed enthusiasm was not appreciated during the sermon!

    When I published this Instructable I expected some comments from people who no longer go to church and want to justify that based on boring sermons, too much talk about money, hypocrites in the church, and all of the usual things we hear. I did not expect to be discussing youthful indiscretions with another preacher. Here is a story told to us in a class. A man was speaking on a very hot day at a commencement. The entire audience gave him none of their attention and he knew it. But, there was one man in a back row who focused on the speaker. The speaker focused on this intent listener just to get through the ordeal. Afterward the speaker found the man to thank him for his attention. It was then that the speaker learned the man was both deaf and dumb.

    Here's a small add to your hack -- Most used alkaline AA cells from other toys will have a year or more of continuous "Clock Power" left in them, so you'd never even have to buy a new cell for this nifty rig.

    1 reply

    Thank you for the suggestion. I have a 3 volt digital calculator/clock on my desk. It normally uses two expensive button batteries. I built a little stand for it and placed a four place battery holder under the stand. Three depleted alkalines have 1 volt each remaining. Ganging them together with a dummy shunt in the fourth battery bay runs that calculator/clock for a year or more. I had not considered trying that on this timer, but the battery in it has a 2002 date on it and still works fine!

    Thank you, Osvaldo. I did this a few years ago.