As a presentation skills coach I’ve long held the belief that most business presentations are far too long. In fact, I wrote an article about it 7 years ago.
Sadly, not a great deal has changed in that time. Many business presentations remain far too long. Under closer scrutiny some are even unnecessary and could be communicated more efficiently through email; if at all.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that shorter business presentations are more effective than longer ones.
Long business presentations often contain too much information digging into unhelpful and irrelevant detail.
What’s the perfect length?
Should business presentations align themselves to TED Talks at 18 mins?
Would 10, 20 or 30 minutes be better?
How does an hour work if you have a lot to say?
Here at Mindful Presenter, we don’t propose an ideal speaking length. We do believe that when it comes to business presentations, ‘less is more’.
The perfect length of business presentations is exactly the length of time you need to fulfil your objective and intention.
What do you want your audience to do with the information?
How do you want them to feel about it?
Please keep in mind, that unless they have some level of emotional connection to what you are sharing, you are unlikely to accomplish your goal.
I realise that’s not the answer you are looking for. It would be more gratifying if I made life easier for everyone and said 15 minutes. That would be easy but unhelpful. At Mindful Presenter we help professionals to present 15-minute business presentations in 5 or 10 minutes and occasionally longer. It’s not about the length of time it takes, it’s about purpose and impact.
The art of compression
If you were to ‘Google’ the meaning of the word compression, you’ll be greeted with the following response:
‘The reduction in volume (causing an increase in pressure) of the fuel mixture in an internal combustion engine before ignition.’ Google’s English dictionary is provided by Oxford Languages
Let us explore that in relation to business presentations.
– Professionals are busy human beings with low attention spans
– We do not pay attention to boring things
– Most of us are very easily distracted
– We live in a world of information overload
Our experience of helping professionals with their business presentations over the last decade is that:
– A great number of people don’t like presenting.
– A greater or at least equal number of people do not like attending business presentations.
That is why we often need a ‘reduction in volume’. In this case, I am referring to content.
It is the mindful reduction of content which allows us to focus with laser like clarity on impact, (causing an increase in pressure).
It is the result of that increased focus which allows ‘ignition’, (driving our audience to action).
Where do you start?
Know exactly why you are speaking
Whilst business presentations are one of the most powerful tools, we have for influencing our colleagues and clients, it is not your only option.
What is so important that you cannot just send them an email or document to read in the comfort of their own space?
Would a simple conversation be more appropriate and effective?
What are you trying to achieve?
Are you the best person to speak on this topic?
Analyse your audience
Who are they?
What are they like?
How much do they know already?
What are their hopes, fears, challenges and goals?
How can I make their lives better, easier, happier or positively different?
Create a clear and compelling message
What is the big idea?
If they could only remember one thing, what would you want that to be?
What will the future look like for them if they adopt your idea?
Is your message simple, relevant and concise?
If you could only communicate you message via Twitter, what would you say in 280 characters?
Ask yourself why they should care
Imagine, someone interrupted you at some point during your presentation and politely asked:
– Why exactly are you telling us that and why should we care?
– What difference will that make to me personally?
– How will that information help me?
– Am I supposed to remember or act on this?
– How would you like me to feel about that?
Say it up front
In a previous article, ‘16 presentation tips to help you to stand out from the crowd,’ I wrote:
‘Do not be like a comedian – Get to the point quickly, don’t save the punchline for the end. That may work for comedians, but business is different. Brevity is key.’
Know it in 90
Imagine you’re given 20 minutes to present and at the very last minute you were told you only had 5 minutes.
Preparing to summarise your message very quickly as will serve you extremely well. In fact, rather than 5 or 20 minutes pretend you only have 90 seconds.
This will compel you to focus exclusively on the information your audience really cares about. You will be forced to lead with your key message clearly and succinctly the moment you begin to speak.
The art of compression in business presentations involves you internalising your message and supporting points so clearly that you can deliver it in 90 seconds.
Cut it out
Once you have crafted your presentation, review it with a microscopic and exacting eye.
Consider very carefully everything you have prepared in relation to how it supports your:
If it does not serve a tangibly, useful purpose to any of these, cut it out.
We are often asked by our clients whether they should use presentation aids.
There are many available to presenters today; the question is what purpose do they serve and what value do they add to your audience?
Presentation aids can be helpful but only providing you have mindfully considered how they will help you with the art of compression based on these principles.
If you need help with the art of compression in business presentations:
– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.
– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.
– Get yourself some excellent presentation training