The Second Golden Rule of Professional Presentations

The three golden rules of formal presentations:

1-practice, practice, practice

2-time yourself

3- get feedback

Today’s post deals with Golden Rule #2: 

2- Time Yourself.

Get out a timer (there’s probably an app on your phone) and time yourself. Do this every time you practice until you can consistently present within the time allotted for the real presentation. Do not skip this!

The prevailing wisdom seems to be that this is silly to pay attention to time limits. I have spent my adult life wondering how other adults misunderstand or underestimate time limits.

Is it that the automatic human brain response to “10 minute presentation” is:

“ten minutes! That’s a long time! How will I ever fill ten whole minutes?! I will have to pad that presentation to get ten whole minutes out of it.”

Sometimes I think the brain screams “Only ten minutes! That must be for the boring presenters. Interesting presenters like me must get as much time as they want.” 

But think about this for a minute:

How many presentations have you seen finish early or on time?

How many presenters have you seen go on and on, completely oblivious to time?

How many presentations have you seen get cut off when they run out time?

Of those, how many were presentations where the real heart of the presentation got cut out?

When one presentation goes way over time, it almost always cuts in to the time allotted for other presenters. And I’m not sure if that’s worse than the alternative: the preamble to the presentation drags on and on and on so when the moderator flashes the “2 minutes left” sign, the presenter nods and starts to pick up the pace. When the “1 minute left” sign is flashed, the presenter starts to click madly through what seems like infinite PowerPoint slides and the presentation becomes “I’m going to skip that,” “I’m going to skip that too.”

Worst of all, at the beginning of almost all of these presentations the audience is promised that there is no possible way the presentations will take up the whole time, that there will be ample time for Q & A, and even that the majority of the time is intended to be for interaction with the audience. Then, in the end, there’s barely any time for questions and lunch is getting cold while those are answered!

How long is 10 minutes? 10 minutes is 10 minutes. There is nothing easier. It’s not complicated. There’s no gray area. You don’t have to wonder. There’s plenty of that to deal with when you get to the level of content, format, requirements, and audience. Timing is the easy part.

Time yourself.

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One Response to The Second Golden Rule of Professional Presentations

  1. Pingback: Professional Presentations: How to NOT Infuriate Your Audience | darcylear

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