The Pains of Letting Go

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Lately, I found myself mostly giving short presentations - 5 or 15 minutes long. Not surprisingly, it's really hard to give a good, consistent, and informative talk in such a short amount of time.

If you need help to get started here, have a look at the example of insightful short talks: TED talks. Garr Reynolds has a useful list of tips on how to prepare a good TED (or TED-style) talk.

But what do you do when your presentation turns out to be too long? How can you make it shorter without losing all that precious content?

As an example, I am currently working on a presentation for which I have 15 minutes. So far, I have designed two presentations that are informative and entertaining - and 20 minutes long. Which means I can not use them, at least not for this occasion. "Back to the drawing board", as the saying goes.

Here are some tips to help you cut down your presentation:

Review your core message. Take a step back. What was your main point for this presentation again? What are you actually saying in the presentation as it stands now? I sometimes find myself side-tracked by a related topic that I feel very strongly about; some of that may creep into the presentation, even though that's not what it was supposed to be about. Identify points that - interesting as they may be - do not really belong into this particular presentation.

Rearrange things. We arrange presentations in a logical order: First I need to explain this, then that, and so on. If you're stuck, try changing the order. How about stating your conclusion first? This won't safe you from having to explain it, but shaking up the order will often reveal unexpected synergies.

So what? This technique won't help you cut down a 20 minute presentation to 15 minutes. But when you're only a minute or two over time, you should carefully review each slide in your presentation, one by one. For each of them, ask yourself: So what? Why is this slide in this presentation? What's my point here? What does the audience get out of it?

There are many recommendations for presentations, but I'd say there's really only one strict rule: Don't go over time, ever. It will inconvenience everybody - your audience, but also the speaker who comes after you, as well as the organisers of the event. Nothing that you can say is important enough to inconvenience all these people.

You need to let go. It's not always easy, but you need to make your best effort - and failure (to cut down your presentation) is not an option.

How do you make sure you don't go over time?

(Image Credit: "Trim" by Brett Jordan, from Flickr)

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Creative Commons Licence "The Pains of Letting Go" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.