I had the pleasure of attending a rather unique and special evening with the American performance artist Laurie Anderson and two fellow musicians recently. The event as such certainly counted more as art than entertainment, so I'm going to ignore a few things that I would quite definitely not recommend for your usual public appearance. Most notably, that we, the audience, had to more or less sit still, in semi-darkness, for one and a half hours. The musicians played their songs back to back, with no pauses between them, so we only got to applaud at the end of the evening. In the meantime, we tried everything not to disturb them. That is not an environment that you can (or should) count on having for your next speaking gig.
Of the many tips, recommendations, and best practices for delivering a presentation, the one rule that is not up for discussion and not meant to be bent or broken, ever, is this one: Don't go over time. Nothing you can say or do will be worth the inconvenience that overrunning your allotted time would bring to your audience, the speaker who comes after you, the organisers, and the event as a whole.
Not going over time is mostly the speaker's responsibility, but the organisers of an event also share some responsibility in making this work.
Let's not talk about finding your core message or bullet points for a moment, but look at the performance, i.e. things presenters do while they are giving their presentation in front of an audience.
Here are three things I noticed that the presenters themselves were probably not even aware of but that are somewhat irritating for their audience.
When being asked for feedback on a presentation, I sometimes find myself in the awkward position where what I really want to recommend is for them to start over from scratch, yet that is not an option given the context. These are usually the sorts of presentations that have lots and lots of bullet points; they often have great content, but the way in which that content is being presented could be greatly improved.
With these presentations in mind, I tried to come up with a series of baby steps; simple improvements that can be made to the presentation. They won't turn it into great a presentation just like that, but they will make it a little better - and, hopefully, also give the presenter some ideas on how to make future presentations better.
At a recent event with three speakers, it was good to see how all three of them tried to avoid standing behind the lectern so that they could better connect with their audience. Trying to do so provided them with new challenges, though.