In almost any job communication skills, especially oral presentation skills, are a must have. Many professionals have not noticed a change in the way that presentations are conducted in recent years. Others, however, have found, or will find, that many presentations can change drastically in the way that they need to be prepared and delivered. One thing is for sure: time is precious, especially the personal time of your audience members. You have a great presentation to make but if you take too long and bore them, it’s wasted. This article aims to give ten tips on how to give an effective short presentation, whether you will be delivering your presentation to a live audience, to an online audience, or both.
1) Start on Time
It may seem obvious, but one way to make sure that your presentation gets out on time is to make sure that you start on time. As Kevin Daum wrote for Inc., don’t delay starting your presentation because a few people are running late, if you can avoid it. While it may be tempting to give some late-showers a few minutes of grace, especially if some key people haven’t showed yet, this can make your whole presentation rushed, along with being disrespectful to the people who did show up on time. If you notice people coming in late, consider giving a quick recap on important points if you happen to mention them again later in the talk.
2) Break it into 3 Points
To keep a presentation short, consider dividing your presentation topic into three main points, as suggested by Danny Wong of Blank Label. By introducing yourself and your three points, and then concluding by restating your three points and how they relate to the overall message you can keep your presentation on point, and in many cases, actually keep it down to five or six slides. If you break your presentation into three points and repeat the three key lessons in your conclusion, it will greatly assist people in remembering the presentation content. Determining what those things should be can almost guarantee that your audience retains the important stuff. It also helps you focus your time on the main points that you want to cover, so you do not waste time on less important sub-points.
3) Limit the Number of Slides
Most successful presenters, such as Guy Kawasaki, recommend limiting the number of slides so that a presentation is no longer than 10 slides , and that the presentation does not take more than 20 minutes, or half an hour at most. Combining these rules mean that you can keep the text of the presentation, an introduction and conclusion slide, and still have plenty of room for pictures or charts to help you if necessary. This method can also help you pace yourself and allow approximately one to two minutes per slide, depending on the number of slides, and still have time for discussion or questions after the presentation. If you can’t meet these criteria, it may be best to consider splitting your information and giving two or more separate presentations.
4) Replace Lots of Text with Strong Visuals
One good way to make a presentation effective, both in terms of saving time and in terms of getting the point across, is to use strong, clear visuals. This is not about using stock clipart or colorful presentation slides. It’s about using visuals that actually communicate your message – this helps make a connection between your verbal words and the message of your presentation. It also leaves a lasting memory in the minds of the audience, which is important when covering important content in a short time period. Visuals can help the audience visualize and remember a point long after the presentation, but they can also save you from needing to go over statistics, even if those statistics are powerful or important. Instead of running through a list of numbers, just say, “as you can see from this pie chart…”, and instead of expecting your audience to remember that 65.3% of operating costs went into IT you can be pretty sure that they’ll remember “IT took up a big piece of the pie this quarter”.
5) Share a Personal Story
In addition to remembering the information, your presentation can be more effective if the audience remembers you specifically. Some presenters do this by drawing attention to a personality trait or past experience that you feel is unique about yourself. While this can leave a lasting impression, it doesn’t take a lot of time to incorporate into your talk, so it might be something to consider.
Now while adding a personal story may seem like a waste of time when you have a limited time frame to make the presentation, it can have a positive effect. Sharing something about yourself can quickly help the audience identify with you and the presentation material. This means you grab their attention which will help you quickly communicate the points of your short presentation.
But the key here is to keep such personal stories or examples short, to the point, and ensure that there is a clear connection with the content that will help you deliver your message.
6) Know Your Audience
You may also find it helpful to know who will be coming to your presentation so that you can tailor the information to the audience. If you know what your audience is likely to understand, you can skip introducing and educating them on things that they’re already likely to know. On the other hand, if you know that one or a few of the people likely to be coming could use a little extra background, you can incorporate that into the presentation quickly so that question and answer time after the presentation isn’t taken up by the new guy asking what that big word on the first slide meant.
7) Test Your Technology Beforehand
Even if you have a masterful presentation that clearly presents your idea in 15 minutes flat, be sure that you can give the presentation in that time by being sure you know the ins and outs of the equipment and software that you’re using. Whether giving an online presentation or live presentation, don’t let the actual show be your first time on that computer, in that room, etc.
8) At Least One Practice Run
Just as the technology is needed to transition properly, the human element needs to be polished as well. Most experts suggest that you practice your presentation in front of people to enhance your presentation skills, but even if you don’t really get nervous, and are familiar with the software that you’ll be using, a practice run can help you peg down the best way to present information, and the best order to present it in. During a quick practice run you may be surprised when you hear yourself repeat something or spend too much time on one point. It will make you re-think what you really need to spend time on, which will lead to you reducing some content and focusing on what’s most important. This will help you finish your presentation on time, as well as appear more professional.
9) Save Questions/Answers for the End
If these tips haven’t worked, and your presentations still tend to go a little too long, it might be time to prioritize. Drop or skim over less important points to cover the big things. If you’re dedicated to saving time for discussion after your presentation, consider suggesting the points you dropped be brought up after the presentation. On the topic of question and answer sessions, if you know that you plan on leaving time for discussion after your presentation, let your audience know at the beginning of the presentation to limit interruptions which not only bog down the presentation on their own, but also can cause you to lose your train of thought as well.
10) Provide a Copy of the Slides
Providing your audience with copies of your slides allow late members to catch up on what they missed. It also allows you to put information on the sheets that you don’t go into in detail in your presentation, allowing individuals in the audience to direct more of their attention to where they feel it belongs. This can be especially helpful if your presentation is directed to a group of coworkers with various backgrounds and know-how. Having a copy of the slides to look back on can also reduce the chance of an audience member asking for you to repeat something that they can now re-read themselves.
Hopefully these tips will help you craft and deliver powerful short presentations. Don’t put too much emphasis on keeping your time short and not enough on how exactly you will deliver the important messages in a limited time frame. Everyone wants a short presentation, but even a short presentation can be a waste time if it isn’t planned out properly.