Give your audience the gift of brevity

No one has ever complained about a speaker finishing ahead of schedule. Here’s how to keep your presentation tight, punchy and effective.

When it comes to presenting, less is definitely more.

Many presenters spend a great deal of time crafting a speech packed with details intended to impress the audience. Unfortunately, most of that detail—no matter how scintillating—is forgotten by the time audience members return to their desks or cars.

Think about the last business presentation you attended. How much of it do you remember? Probably not much, right? There’s a reason why Ted Talks are limited to 18 minutes.

Your best shot at making a lasting impression is to be concise. When was the last time you heard anyone complain because a speaker had finished ahead of schedule?

We are overwhelmed by information every day. Pare your speech to the crucial tidbits that will make a significant difference for your audience.

How do you do it?

Here are tips to cut the fluff and get straight to the meat:

  • Make your presentation entirely about your audience—not you.
  • Be absolutely clear about your message and the value it offers to your audience.
  • Don’t behave like a comedian, saving the punchline for the end. Get straight to your key points.
  • Tell the audience solely what they need to know.
  • Don’t keep repeating yourself.
  • If you are asked to speak for 40 minutes but need only 20, let the organizers know that.
  • With everything you say, show and do, imagine how you would respond if someone asked: “So what? Why should I care about that?’
  • Do your homework. Find out in advance how much your audience knows about your topic, and determine what they need from you.
  • Don’t set out to impress; set out to make a positive difference for those in attendance.
  • Remember the suffering that long-winded presenters have inflicted on you.
  • Challenge the status quo; dare to be different.
  • Put yourself in your audience’s shoes.
  • Keep in mind that most presentations are too long and boring.
  • If you use visuals, make sure each slide contains just one idea.
  • If a visual doesn’t support your message or add significant value, leave it out.
  • Have the courage to tell your audience that you’ve finished early and that the rest of the time is theirs to use as they please.

Presenters have an obligation to filter out unnecessary noise. Making your speech brief and punchy will amplify your message, and your audience will be grateful.

Maurice DeCastro is the founder of Mindful Presenter. A version of this post first appeared on the Mindful Presenter blog.

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