Preparing a Presentation when you're under Time Pressure

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... is something that you should avoid, obviously. Don't be that busy speaker who delivers a mediocre presentation because you didn't have the time to prepare properly. At least that's the advice for speaking at regular conferences and similar events. You should have had enough advance warning; not using that time is usually your own fault - be it due to bad time management or over-commitment.

In some circumstances, however, having to prepare a presentation on short notice is almost the norm; in business environments, for example.

The good news is that what is expected from you in such a case is not your typical 60-minute presentation. Business presentations are much more focussed on a specific topic; something you are familiar with since it's part of your everyday work. Also, they are often part of a decision-making process. You can use all this to your advantage.

What do they want from you?

As with every other presentation, remember that your audience is at the centre of it all. Find out what they want to hear from you. You also have one important advantage over your typical audience at a conference; these are your colleagues, so you can actually go and ask them!

As for the format of the presentation, you can skip the introduction. All the attendees are working in the same company and are familiar with at least the basics. So you can concentrate on explaining the issue(s) at hand.

Make it interactive

A good approach is usually to make things more interactive. Present only the absolutely necessary parts: What is the problem (if there is one)? What are the most important numbers and facts? What are the suggested (by you or by others) ways ahead? Then, let your audience decide whether or not they want to hear about details; i.e. let them ask questions. If they don't have questions, then they weren't interested in those details and you saved the time preparing that part of the presentation. You do need to be familiar with the details, though, of course, but since you've been working on the issue at hand, this should be the case anyway.

15 Minutes including Q&A

If you often find yourself in a similar situation, have a look at the book 15 minutes including Q&A by Joey Asher. It is written exactly for this situation and explains how to prepare such a presentation - what to include and what to leave to the Q&A part.

As always, however: You can't wing it. Even with the approach of leaving things to Q&A, you will still have to prepare. You will, however, save time in preparing unnecessary slides.

(Image Credits: Meeting by Alexander Kaiser, from Flickr)

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Creative Commons Licence "Preparing a Presentation when you're under Time Pressure" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.