Some researchers say that the attention span of the human mind is only about 8 seconds. Even if we assume this to be a more pessimistic approach, there still exists a huge challenge faced by every presenter, in keeping their audience enraptured.
A key concept that successful orators and presenters use is the dictum of the ABC in effective communication: Accuracy, Brevity, and Clarity. These are bound by one common factor–time, or as we like to call it, the muslin minute.
This mantra ensures that the underlying principle of effective communication is adhered to, and forms the backbone of any good presentation.
Here’s why keeping time is so important, in any presentation:
Importance of Keeping Time:
1. Prioritize Your Audience:
Let’s face it, as a presenter, one unfortunately does not have the luxury to speak for hours together, with no time restriction.
While it is important to get the message across, it is also essential to do so, while respecting the audience’s and/or organiser’s time.
Ever so often, there may be multiple speakers presenting one after the other, which makes adhering to the given time limit even more necessary.
Additionally, the audience too would have multiple commitments to get to, post your presentation, and thus, considering these factors is pivotal.
2. Limited Attention- A Tension:
The fact of the matter is that no matter how interesting the subject may be, the human mind is easily distracted, resulting in a loss of attention.
For a presenter, this poses as a challenge, as the main goal is to ensure that the subject being discussed is thoroughly understood and retained.
Hence, following the time limit and preparing your material concisely, and in accordance to the same, will help in making your presentation effective in nature.
3. More Information:
Yes, you read that right. One may ask how keeping time will help propagate more information.
An important point to be kept in mind is the fact that presentations aren’t merely about reading the slides of a PowerPoint presentation, but also depend majorly on any form of discussion (usually Q&A) where queries are addressed and doubts are cleared, so as to ensure an in-depth understanding of the subject.
Now having understood the importance of following and respecting the time limit, let’s now move on to understanding how to do so.
How to Time Your Presentation:
1. What’s the Time? :
The first step is to simply ask and know what your time limit is. Always note it down in case you forget.
If no time limit is specified, try consciously packaging your material in a succinct manner, so as to respect your audience’s time.
Regularly follow-up with the organizers, in case of any changes.
2. Know it All:
Know what you have to say.
If you’ve been given a subject or are asked to present a topic of your choice, it is important to be absolutely well-versed with the required concepts, what it entails, and the sub-topics you would want to cover within the given duration.
If your knowledge is inadequate on your end, it could result in a lot of wastage of time– after all, your goal of communicating efficiently with your audience is obstructed.
You must also know how to work your way around the technology you use. While it does make life simpler, it could also end up wasting time, if you don’t know how to use it well.
Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Keep reading this article to find out some tips, shortcuts and tricks that can enhance your presentation.
3. Ration your Duration:
Once you’ve made note of your time limit and have an idea of the concepts you wish to cover, it is crucial for you to begin scheduling your information and placing them in your slides accordingly.
Structure your presentation in accordance to the given time, and allocate a certain duration per slide/ concept. This will give you a blueprint of your presentation, and ensure its smooth sailing.
Related Article: Effective Speech Transitions: How To Make Your Speech Flow
4. Time Yourself:
Keep timing and recording yourself while practicing.
This practice helps you recognize areas you could cut, need be, as well as gives you an idea on how the presentation would sound to your audience.
There are so many more benefits to this, and is something one must most definitely inculcate. Read more about this here.
5. Write Your Speech:
Write each and every word of your speech. Don’t take shortcuts through bullet points and summaries.
While it is not essential to memorise your entire speech, it is scientifically proven that writing helps you process, analyse and retain information much better, which is necessary when it comes to public speaking.
This exercise ensures that you’re more well-acquainted with your speech and subject, and leaves lesser room for error, thus saving time.
Additionally, if you practice by merely referring to bullet points, chances are you might spend more time beating around the bush while presenting, resulting in time-waste.
6. Watch it:
During your final presentation, do ensure that you have an accurate source of time with you–a wristwatch, clock, smartphone, or even a trusted aide who could signal it for you.
Make sure this source is near you, and in your line of sight, so that you can adhere to it precisely.
7. The Ritual of Being Punctual:
Be on time. Reach your venue at least 10 minutes before the scheduled time.
Very often, presenters themselves are late, and hence, find themselves in a position where they’re scrambling for time. This may result in the impact of your presentation going downhill.
Plus, this will most definitely cut into the time of the other speakers present.
Punctuality is a sign that you respect the time of your fellow speakers, organizers and most importantly, listeners. This goes a long way.
8. Adapt and React:
The element of uncertainty always exists. You could still find yourself running out of time. Or, the organizers might ask you to speed your presentation due to a venue being booked for a limited time, other delays and/or technical issues.
Nevertheless, there must exist a Plan B. You must immediately be able to adapt to the situation and eliminate the needful.
Yes, your material may be concise, but you must always have a fair idea of what can be eliminated in case a situation like this arises. Consider your audience and approach it from their perspective.
You must be quick on your feet. Don’t let your nerves get the better of you. With adequate prior preparation, one will seamlessly be able to adapt to the situation.
9. The Filler Killer:
We often use filler words such as Um, Well, and Like in our day-to-day conversations.
However, while giving a presentation in a limited timeframe, these filler words may actually end up wasting time and cause you to exceed your given limit. After all, these words are meaningless.
We often use these words due to lack of preparation, nerves or just sheer habit.
Learn how to eliminate its usage through this helpful article.
10. Handy Handouts:
The experience of an effective PowerPoint presentation is incomplete without handouts.
Handouts are a tangible and printed form of information handed over to your audience.
As a presenter, you may feel restricted, in terms of addressing all essential points for a subject. This is where handouts come in handy.
All required information can be printed on your handout, and these help in creating a lasting impression and impact on your audience.
Here’s all you need to know about presentation handouts.
11. Don’t Stress to Impress:
We get it, public speaking and giving presentations is nerve-wracking. But, we’ve got your back.
Nerves result in the wastage of a lot of time. No matter what the preparation is, your efforts might go in vain due to nerves.
Relax! That’s what you have to do when you’re up next. You can even harness your nervous and vulnerable state of mind, into a powerful tool.
Read this article, in order to do so.
Ideal Length of a Presentation
Speeches and presentations are subjective in nature. There isn’t any universal duration set for your presentation.
This depends on the kind of meeting being held, as well as, your audience.
To help you get a fair idea, here are some examples of the types of speeches and their ideal duration:
- TED Talks: A talk can be no longer than 18 minutes, as it is considered to be just the right span of time to hold one’s attention and create a serious impact.
- Business Pitch: Should range between 10-18 minutes, but not exceed this limit. It is done so to prevent saturation of information and loss of interest.
- Ceremonial Speeches: Should range between 5-10 minutes. These include weddings, graduations, birthdays, and even funerals.
- Informative Speaking: Ideal time considered is 10 minutes. Here, the speaker disseminates important information.
- Persuasive Speaking: Duration between 2-7 minutes. Here, a speaker tries to convince their audience to agree with their viewpoint.
Again, there is nothing set in stone in terms of time, for these presentations. They wary in nature, size and context.
In some scenarios, one could probably be more flexible with their time; for example– a wedding toast, which isn’t necessarily bound by a restrictive timeframe.
Whereas, in more formal environments such as a business pitch, the 18 minute time limit is adhered to.
Best Time of the Day to Give a Presentation
Yes, that is a thing. If you have the flexibility to schedule your presentation, you should most definitely aim to take the morning slot around 10 AM.
Why? This is because your audience will be fresh, with higher levels of concentration and short-term memory.
10 AM isn’t too early in the day, where your audience might doze off.
If a slot is taken after that, around afternoon, it may coincide with lunch time (which, let’s admit, is very important) and result in your audience being more distracted and restless due to the same.
Post-lunch, too, becomes relatively riskier, as productivity levels do go down in the afternoons, especially after a heavy meal. A large number of people feel tired after a heavy meal, and concentration levels dip.
Of course, in the end, choosing your time depends on your knowledge of your audience. It depends on who they are, what they do, and their working hours.
So do keep these factors in mind while scheduling your next presentation!
Putting Power in your Point: Tips & Tricks
Now, keeping time isn’t necessarily limited to just your speech. The presentation you make must also be accurate and clear.
Here are a few hacks you could use to up your PowerPoint game.
1. Simplicity’s the Key:
KISS. Keep it simple, stupid!
If you want to save time while presenting, avoid using ‘fancy’ words or complex explanations; you’re probably going to end up explaining those more than actually presenting, leading to a waste of time. If there’s a simpler route, always go for that.
Limit the number of words per line, and throughout your presentation. Just about 6-8 words per line, and keep a close eye on the number of slides.
2. Display Matter that Matters:
Make it a point to present only essential information. The explanation is to be done by the speaker.
Hence, just put in the required keywords in bullet points, and explain them accordingly.
Quite often, presenters make large bullet points with the whole text, and end up reading those verbatim instead. This must be avoided.
3. Limit your Slides:
Ensure that you don’t have too many slides, which may result in exceeding the time limit.
Time your presentation accordingly, with reference to the one slide per minute rule.
4. ‘Builds’ Could Knock you Down:
Build slides are those slides that gradually show you the bullet points so present, as the mouse is clicked.
They are used to add variety, but ever so often, they end up slowing down the presentation.
Avoid using builds repetitively, and use them only where necessary and/or to make a point.
5. Learn to Navigate:
In the course of the presentation, you may be asked to go back and forth your slides, for purposes of reference.
For example, if at Slide 14, you wish to cover a concept so explained on Slide 5, you may end up wasting time going through each of those previous 9 slides. Remember, every second counts.
There are various methods to ensure you reach your desired slide, with the simple click of a button. Read this.
Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule:
It’s pretty simple:
According to Kawasaki, 10 is the adequate number of slides that the human mind can fully interpret and retain. It’s up to the speaker on how he wants to structure his presentation, but the message should be conveyed within those 10 slides.
20 minutes is the time you should allocate for your presentation. Even if you are given a whole 60 minutes for the same, aim to finish in 20 and allocate the remaining 40 minutes to an interactive question/answer session.
30 pts. should be the minimum size of the font you choose. Nothing smaller than that. The idea behind this is that the smaller the text, the more information is put on the slide. This may be counterproductive to the fact that PowerPoint Presentations are meant to be concise and to-the-point. The explaining is to be done by you.
Keeping your thoughts, on the dot, may seem like a task, at first. But, now you know, it surely isn’t.
All it requires is prioritization from the presenter’s end. Keep the needs and interests of your audience in mind and respect their time.
Keep time, and don’t let time keep you.