Man presenting at a conference

A couple of years ago I wrote and published an article called, ‘Most presentations are far too long – less really is more!’ The key message within that article was that ‘We need to cut out the superfluous noise’ and I offered some insights into how to achieve that. The A to Z of Mindful Presenting expands on that premise by endorsing the belief that when it comes to high impact presenting ‘less is definitely more’. Our watchword for that principle is brevity.

Most professionals spend a great deal of time crafting a presentation which contains a wealth of detail designed to impress their audience. Unfortunately, most of that detail is forgotten by the time they return to their desk or their car. Think about the last business presentation you attended and ask yourself how much you remember. It’s likely that it will be very little, and whatever you do remember will be of little relevance and value to you personally in helping you to move towards something positive or away from something negative.

Many people believe that TED talks are leading the way in high impact presenting and public speaking and one of the reasons for this is that they limit the length of their talks to 18 minutes.

When was the last time you heard anyone complain because a speaker finished what they had to say ahead of the time they were scheduled to speak?

The reality is that we live in a world where we are all overwhelmed with information and have far less time to understand and absorb it than we would like to. The paradox is that many professionals believe that the key to success in presenting in business is giving their audience ‘everything they’ve got’. The reality is that your audience are only interested in what will make a tangible difference to them.

Despite popular belief, your audience will be eternally grateful if you finish speaking earlier than scheduled, no matter how good your presentation is.

So how do you do it?

  • Make your presentation entirely about your audience, not you.
  • Be absolutely clear on what your message is and what value it offers to your audience.
  • Don’t be like a comedian and save the punchline to the end. Get straight to the point.
  • Tell them only what they need to know.
  • Don’t keep repeating yourself.
  • If you are asked to speak for 40 minutes and know you only need 20 then have the courage to push back.
  • With everything you say, show and do, imagine how you would respond if someone asks you ‘So what? Why should I care about that?’
  • Do your homework; find out well in advance how much they know and what they need from you.
  • Don’t set out to impress, set out to make a difference.
  • Remember the pain other presenters have made you feel and commit to not replicate it.
  • Have the courage to challenge the status quo and dare to be different.
  • Put yourself in your audience’s shoes.
  • Remember, most presentations are too long and too boring.
  • If you are using visuals make sure that each slide contains only one idea.
  • If it doesn’t support your message or add significant value leave it out.
  • Have the courage to tell your audience that’s all they need to know, you’ve finished early and the rest of the time is theirs to do as they please.

As presenters we have an obligation to filter the noise and do the hard work of organizing our thoughts and delivering our message in a way that our audience will easily understand, won’t have to work for and be thankful for.