Tips for public speakers and presenters when time is short
Talking is an art. Talking on time is a science. Polished delivery of a prepared speech of 5, 15, or 30 minutes takes verbal skill, rehearsal, and focus to stay within time. But for someone whose time allotment has been slashed, trimming their prepared talk to fit the new time takes a blend of quick-thinking editing and amplified audience-engagement. The program is running overtime and you’ve been told you only have 5 minutes to deliver your beautiful 20 minute speech! Here are some techniques to tailor your talk when time is tight.
#1. Keep it Focused On The Audience
When time is tight, the focus should be on the audience. Acknowledge their time constraint and assure them that you’ll keep your program in the new abbreviated time. Keep your quick talk squarely focused on their interest and needs. More than ever, it’s not about you. Trim-out any personal stories, humor, personality, or examples, and stick to the bottom line. You are just a messenger. What value can you provide and what are you here to share that they need to know? Visually “read the room” to see how much more information they can absorb. Or simply maintain a brief dialogue with someone of leadership in the audience to help keep your message targeted and on-time. “Is this important to you?” “Do we have time for me to share this?” Their answers will help guide the flow, and show that you care about their needs.
#2: Have an Executive Summary with a Focused Key Message
Executive summaries are valuable because they consolidate complex information into a few paragraphs. They’re easy to read and digest. For your talk, focus on crafting an executive summary for your presentation that highlights your #1 overall key message. Aim to find a core statement or critical message that hits home. This core statement could become the foundation- even the introduction- to your talk. Whether it’s a sales or marketing presentation, an inspirational or informational talk, or a financial/analyst presentation, a ready-to-go pre-made executive summary can help you talk with focus without getting flustered.
#3. Print Handouts & Share Where to get More Info
When talking time is tight, support it with handouts. Either as a digital file link, email, or printout, slide handouts can have notes, links, and supporting documentation to help fortify your high-level statements. By offering hyperlinks in your notes (to both internal and external resources), you can showcase your sources, and offer the audience a chance to dive-in deeper to learn about your topic and message. You can also post your full presentation online at SlideShare.net or convert it into a narrated movie to be uploaded on YouTube.
#4. Reschedule! Offer a Full Program at a Working-Lunch or After-Hours
No time now? Let’s do it later. Depending on the genre of your presentation and audience interest, you maybe able to reschedule your full talk for another time/day or after-hours. Short on time for your critical finance presentation to the COO? Get on his schedule after hours or during lunch next week. How about that training presentation of yours that nobody seems to have time for during work hours? Tell the gang to join you after for a happy hour in the local brewery’s back meeting room, and get them trained on the big-screen at the bar. Bottom’s Up!
#5. Learn to Recover From Distractions
One of the most frustrating and challenging situations for a speaker is to be distracted from the topic. Bouncing back after being thrown-off topic takes practice and craft. By practicing to recover from distractions, you’ll gain agility in thinking on your feet and tailoring your talk to various lengths. If someone rudely looks at the clock and then commands you to, “just jump to the end!” don’t be flustered that your big talk must now be small. As a speaker, you want to appear calm, poised and in-command. You may be upset by the loss of information and creative time/effort- but it’s essential that you roll with the punches. Practice your material in various settings with different audiences, so that you can adapt and react to whatever is thrown your way…or whatever is cut from your timetable.
#6. Just the Facts
Stories, photos/videos, statistics, and examples can be the spice of a speech, adding depth and dimension. But when time is tight, we must eliminate this speech spicing. Talk to the meat of the matter, presenting just the facts to your audience. Like a journalist, focus on Who, What, When, Why, Where, and How. Maintain your persona, but stay brief, and make sure your points support the key message, and fit in with the general tone and style of your meeting or venue.
#7. Memorize your Intro and Closing
Within the first 30 seconds of a typical speech, most audiences have already created a holistic judgment of the speaker. Appearance…style…message: judged and rated fast and furiously by the audience. Despite how much may have been sacked from your speech, having a compelling and memorized introduction and closing can create a more meaningful presentation to your audience. With or without visuals (PowerPoint/Keynote), you should be comfortable commanding the platform and talking from the heart and mind about your topic. Even if it’s just a dull topic, a short sharp memorized intro that touches on your key points and jumps to a brief but bland conclusion, your audience will be far more captivated than with a scattered meandering through your message.
#8. Structure Your Speech as an Expandable Outline
Structuring your speech in an outline format is a great way to organize your key messages while adding flexibility to the depth of your supporting ideas and messages. With your key topics in the top level, you can integrate your supporting points, samples, and related topics in lower-level points (level 1a, 1b, 1bi, 1bii, etc.). If time is tight, you can simply speak from the top topics from your outline. As you talk, pay careful attention to the time; you can expand upon- or skip-past- each of the key points as needed. You can also share the outline with your audience to show you’ve done your homework, and there’s more if they want it.
#9. Hyperlink in PowerPoint
Presenters using PowerPoint or Keynote can make their presentations interactive, making it easy to jump across high-level sections…or drill down deeply into detail thanks to hyperlinks. Adding a main menu featuring your speech’s key sections- in graphics and/or text- is a great place to begin. Each topic can have an embedded hyperlink that, on mouse-click, will jump to that specific topic’s slide. The topic slides can have additional supporting detail slides, also accessed by hyperlinks. And to return to the main menu- build-in an invisible hyperlink on the master slide (on the logo or bottom corner). Presentations with hyperlinks can add an image of professionalism, while helping you respond to crushing chronological circumstances.
#10. Don’t rush. Talk calmly but naturally. End with purpose.
If told that they need to “wrap it up,” most people will talk faster, get more nervous, and race to cram it all in. Consciously or not, the audience will notice…negatively. Don’t rush. If you know your time is tight, talk calmly but naturally. Take a deep breath, and make a conscious note to react with calmness and confidence. Assuming you know the material, calm extemporaneously delivery will give your mind more flexibility to determine what parts to edit-out and keep-in. End on a poignant and purposeful note; sometimes less is more.
The artful balance of information, time, and talk demands focus and flexibility. By integrating these strategies into your speaking practice, you’ll be better prepared to tailor your talk the next time that time is tight.
Time-saving 6-Step process helps create great looking PowerPoint presentations fast and easy
Most people dread presentation design. Tell someone they need to create a PowerPoint show and present it and you’ll likely hear a sad list of excuses…
“I don’t know where to begin!”
“It takes too long!”
“I don’t know how to make it look good!”
Creating presentations need not be viewed as a time-consuming chore! After years of creating professional presentations for myself and for clients, I’ve developed a time-saving 6-Step Process to create a great looking and full-featured PowerPoint presentation, without frustration — in under four hours. Here’s how…
Segment one (0:00 – 0:15 = 15 Minutes)
Define presentation objectives
The key to fast and easy presentation development is to start with a clear definition of the goals/objectives of the presentation. Take 15 minutes to clearly answer these questions which will help direct the focus of the presentation:
What is the primary objective of the presentation and how will it be used?
Who is the audience?
What is their level of understanding of the material to be presented?
How many people (on average) will be watching this presentation?
What tone do I wish to set (i.e. look and feel) with this presentation? (high tech, conservative, fun, etc.)
Once you have answered these questions, you should have a clearer picture of the goals and scope of the presentation, which should help drive its overall look, font size, and content.
Segment two (0:15 – 1:00 = 45 Minutes)
Outline and visualize
Now it’s time to really focus on your message. Start by writing a basic outline of the points and subpoints you want to cover in your presentation. Craft your outline on paper, whiteboard or word processor — whatever works best for you. You can even use PowerPoint’s outline feature. Start with a blank presentation and enter your bullets and titles on each page.
One word of caution, resist the temptation to play with PowerPoint! It’s a fun program, but tinkering with the graphics and options can eat up valuable time. As you write out your outline, keep the points succinct so they can serve as the titles for each page.
While writing the outline, visualize yourself presenting. Don’t be afraid to speak extemporaneously, as if you were presenting the presentation. Without any notes, role play as if you were addressing the audience, ad-libbing your presentation as best as you can.
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen. I’m [name] and today we’re talking about [topic]. Before I leave here today, you’ll have a better understanding of [presentation objectives]. The three points I’m covering today are…[Points 1,2,3]….”
It may seem silly, but you will surprised at how your thoughts will flow effortlessly and your main points will come together. Indeed, our subconscious minds are often more skilled than we know, and can be of great help in drafting presentations. Try it!
Work through this process until you have refined your message and the main supporting points of your content.
Segment three (1:00 – 1:45 = 45 Minutes)
Develop look, feel, template and title/body master
Now we’re ready really get into PowerPoint. Creating the graphical look of the presentation can be a time-consuming activity. But by limiting this front-end design to 40 minutes, you can quickly set up the shell for the presentation to allow for more efficient development.
Choosing an effective template is the most critical step of creating a good looking presentation. To speed development, choose a title/body master from an existing template or perhaps your company has a background template already. You can use PowerPoint’s built-in templates if you’re in a pinch, but in my opinion, PowerPoint’s built-in templates are often overused and too generic.
Once you have chosen your design, modify your stock template as needed in Photoshop or another digital imaging program. Then import it directly into PowerPoint as your Master Page. Simply open the Master’s page view (View > Master > Slide Master) and then Insert > Background > Fill Effects > Picture.
With the background in place, it’s time to establish the master color scheme (Format > Slide Design > Color Scheme), as well as your choice of fonts, typesizes, bullets, body layout, line spacing and more.
If you developed the outline with text in the body and title master blocks, they will automatically assume the look and feel of the new template, and your presentation will suddenly look polished and professional, putting you on the fast-track to completion.
Segment four (1:45 – 3:15 = 90 Minutes)
Time budgeting and text/graphics development
The bulk of presentation development, of course, is gathering up graphics and placing text. But before you dive into the meat of the presentation, take a quick moment to estimate the number of pages you plan to have. Once you have a total, divide that number by 90 minutes to get a rough average of the amount of time you should spend on each page.
For example, I present at a moderate pace of 1 to 2 slides per minute, so a 20 minute presentation would have 20 to 40 slides. Time-wise, that calculates to an average of 30 slides divided by 90 minutes, which equals an average of three minutes of development time per slide for the text and graphics. Now that may seem fast, but by pacing yourself at this rate for development, you’ll find the presentation comes together much more quickly. Some people actually work better under a deadline, and setting the average time per slide (or overall timeframe) may actually make it easier to develop material.
For the text, go through the slides and elaborate upon the outline that’s been written. Collaboration often speeds the process; get a colleague or a small group together to throw out ideas to help add bulk & bullets to your message.
For efficient graphic selection, it’s helpful to use the clip-art library built into PowerPoint especially when it’s linked to the Internet (Insert picture > Clipart). Alternately, there are numerous other services for good graphics. Try collections from Digital Vision or Photodisc or again The Presenter’s Toolkit or Ultimate Combo.
Don’t get too stuck on any single graphic or thought process. If you’re having trouble, move on to the next page and return back to that trouble spot. The trick is to keep the pace moving, and refine trouble spots later. I often go through the presentation in various iterations, making a few more enhancements each pass. The empty spots will ultimately fill themselves in. Just keep going!
Segment five (3:15 – 3:30 = 15 Minutes)
Slide transitions and animations
Spend a quick 15 minutes to assign transitions to all the slides. This is easier than you think, as the transitions between slides should be consistent throughout the presentation. The animations on the master-page bullets should also be consistent. A simple wipe effect is a good no-nonsense effect.
Segment six (3:30 – 4:00= 30 Minutes)
Final edits and revisions
The last 30 minutes of this accelerated presentation design is focused on final edits and revisions. Run through the entire presentation in slideshow mode to ensure the transitions/animations work effectively, and identify any areas that still need refinement. Then, go back and make any necessary edits.
Pay careful attention to the amount of text on screen. If any page is too crowded, split it onto a secondary page, for example “Topic: Part 1” and “Topic: Part 2.”
Ensure the graphics are consistent and relevant to the textual material on screen. Use the guides/grids to keep the graphics from jumping around. Make several more passes, and keep tweaking until you’re satisfied. Remember to saving versions of your presentation to prevent any catastrophic data loss or to allow you to revert to something that was deleted. I like to save every 30 minutes using titles like “Filename-v1.ppt,” “Filename-v2.ppt.,” etc.
By sticking to a focused process and defined timeframe, your presentation will be developed more efficiently and effectively than by an ad-hoc approach. It’s a simple but workable strategy: plan…prepare…present!