Keep Your Presentation Short – Your Audience will Thank You

Winston Churchill humorously said: β€œA good speech should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”

Winston Churchill knew why to keep your presentation short
Winston Churchill

The former prime minister of the United Kingdom knew what he was talking about. Widely regarded as one of the greatest orators of the 20th century, he knew that long, rambling speeches will extend beyond the attention span of his listeners.

Attention spans have become even shorter in recent years. We are bombarded with so many diverse messages coming at us from different directions, it is difficult to stay focused. We have become impatient and want information now. Get to the point…and get to the point fast.

How to Keep Your Presentation Short

Focus on Key Points

Focus only on the key points you want to make with your talk. To do that, you need to clearly understand your audience: what do they already know and what do they want to learn from you.

Have the Guts to Cut

Ask yourself: “What can I cut from from my presentation?” There may be words, sentences, and segments that do not add any value. Cut them out. If it isn’t absolutely necessary for your audience to understand the key point(s) of your presentation, it simply shouldn’t be said.

Follow the “Rule of Three”

People cannot keep more than three or four pieces of information in their short term memory easily. If you want to cover more key points, find ways to chunk up your information to fit into one of three distinct blocks of info. By doing so, you will end up with a more focused presentation that tends to also become shorter.

I have never met an audience that blamed a speaker for being concise and brief. I have met many audience members, however, who have complained about a speaker stretching their presentation beyond a reasonable length. If you start to deliver your information in a very focused fashion, your presentations will become more memorable and effective. I promise!

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12 Responses

  1. Hi Claudio, your post is short but concise and memorable. The way you write is probably just the you speak I believe. You keep it short and simple (KISS) am I right? What I’m trying to say is your post kept me engaged till the end πŸ™‚ Thank you for sharing your masterful post writing.

    dominic@dlansing

    1. Thank you for commenting, Dominic. Yes, I try to keep my communication short, simple, and to the point. I consider fluff, jargon, and extra words during a presentation are the best remedy for insomnia. πŸ˜‰

  2. I totally agree with this.

    Although I consider myself somewhat educated i do admit I have a short attention span when it comes to certain things.

    If i see big paragraphs of small letters i simply will not read it. I do not have the patience no matter how interesting it might be!

    Great information thank you.

    Chris

  3. Hi. Having wished the earth would open up and swallow me on many occasions at dull rambling presentations, I wholeheartedly agree! Your ‘Rule of Three’ is definitely an important one to follow.
    Peter

  4. I learned the same thing in professional military education, where brevity is key. And of course their presentations started off with the same “attention getter” Churchill quote!
    Good succinct advice.

  5. hi Claudio!
    superb post! Effective and to the point πŸ™‚ And I like that Winston Churchill’s quote! I have attended so many conferences and speeches during which the speaker just goes around in circles and does a very unnecessary long presentation. People do have a very short attention span even when writing notes. So the more concise the better

    1. Thank you, Emily! There is some research that suggests that people’s attention span has come down to about 10 minutes. Anything longer than that and they will tune out.

      What I like about Churchill is that he could be very tough and humorous at the same time. Made for some great speeches.

  6. This is one of the things that I actually struggle during my presentations at work, which is keeping everything concise yet covers up everything. I studied in schools that favor excellence by giving specific information that I become too meticulous. It takes me a lot of practice for me to come up with concise reports, thanks for the post πŸ™‚

    1. Yes, it’s easy to get lost in details and too much specific information, especially when you are talking about something you know well and are passionate about. Good planning and some practice will help you to focus on the key elements, keeping your presentations short and to the point.

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