Can Presentations Be Too Short?

Have a gut feeling that your presentation is too short? Or is your presentation shorter than what was asked out of you? Short presentations aren’t such a bad thing. This article will help you understand the effectiveness of short presentations. Read along to find out how to deliver effective short presentations or make your short presentation longer. 

How long are Short Presentations?

Short Presentations are also called Lightning Talks or Data Blitz. Any presentation or speech that lasts less than 10 minutes can be classified as a short presentation. The main goal of any presentation is to put forth an idea. If your presentation conveys everything it was supposed to, it is a successful presentation. The effectiveness of a presentation is not proportionate to its length.

Your presentations cannot be too short. If they’re properly delivering the message, they are called concise presentations. 

short presentations

“Nobody ever complained the presentation was too short”

Why are Short Presentations better?

  1. Saves Time: Time is money. The more time you save, the more you have to allot to valuable endeavours. Everybody would love to catch a five minute break without compromising on productivity.
  1. Efficient: Short presentations leave out all the content that’s not absolutely critical. When all the major points are covered without beating around the bush, it is much more efficient. Your audience will definitely thank you in their minds. After all, As students, we all loved it when the teacher left us early.
  1. Attention Span: The maximum attention span of an average adult according to studies is 20 minutes. Short presentations cut this to half. This means, the attention of your audience will remain fresh throughout the presentation. 
  1. Clear, Concise, Compelling: Lesser the time frame, more the effort. You have a big idea to convey in a small time. This will force you to become clear, concise and compelling. 
short speeches

How to make Effective Short Presentations

Less is more. Minimalism is the phenomenon that revolutionised the post world war era. It has taken over all aspects of life, presentations too! How do you then apply the principles of minimalism into making stunning presentations?

  1. Fine Filter: Short presentations mean you cleanse your information thoroughly. Only and only the most important content must make it to the speech. The slides should then be even briefer. 
  1. Context: Cleansing unnecessary information does not include forgoing your contexts. Your presentation is not a mystery novel. Keep everybody on the same page, let them know what you’re talking about. 
  1. Series of Three: Steve Jobs gave his presentations in the series of three. He concluded that most people remember things in the series of three. Therefore, he would break a big topic into three main core ideas. Three is a small number, enough to form clear short presentations. For example, while giving a speech about waste management, your three main takeaways would be Reuse, Reduce and Recycle. When your three main ideas are addressed clearly in your presentation, its effectiveness is greatly amplified. 
  1. Stories: Stories teach better than lectures. You can ask somebody to separate their waste, or you could narrate a story that shows the consequences of doing so. You can also highlight what happens when you don’t do so! We as a civilization succeeded with the power of stories. Short stories in your short presentations can convey way more than you are estimating. Be metaphorical.
  1. No Time For Introductions: This does not mean you skip the introduction ofcourse. Follow the standard introduction-body-conclusion formal but keep in mind that you cannot have a 3 minute introduction in a 10 minute speech. Start boldly with a short controversial statement, be fearless. This will involve your audience too! Precision is the key to any short presentation.
  1. Passion: You know the twinkle in somebody’s eyes when they’re talking about something they’re passionate about? Everybody loves listening to them. Presentations become greater when delivered with passion. Short presentations driven by passion receive an insurmountable attention. 
  1. Show, Don’t Tell: A single picture speaks a thousand words. When your short presentations make it hard to incorporate long explanations, use pictures! Good images are not only self-explanatory but also impeccable when it comes to delivering concepts. As cavemen, we used images to communicate. Tap into the evolutionary instincts of humans and deliver your presentations.
  1. Structure: The presentation cannot stand out without structure. Have a good order in the presentation, don’t let anything go haywire. Nobody likes getting confused. It loses the audience in the snap of your fingers. 
  1. Minimum: Pertaining your presentation slides, try making them bare minimum. This does not mean not putting effort into them. It means that the content of your slide must not have a lot of information. For a presentation of 10 minutes, try minimising your presentation to a maximum of 5-10 slides. This adds up to not more than 1-2 slides per minute.
  1. Vocabulary: Keep your thesaurus away, this is not a research paper. Writing fancy long words and speaking them are two very different things. Keep it simple. Talk to your audience like it is a conversational pitch, not philosophical preaching. Remember, you do NOT have the time to be complicated. Work your flair in simplicity.

Time Management

The defining factor of short presentations is the time period. Only when they get over within a small time are they called “short presentations”. Going over the time limit will frustrate your audience and disengage them.

How to then manage time in short presentations? You can use the Series of Three method mentioned above to ensure you complete the presentation on time. Apart from that, set benchmarks to ensure better time management within a presentation. 

Benchmarks or milestones are cues to move on from point to point to ensure you cover all the topics before the alarm goes off. You may or may not have a ticking clock at your disposal. In this case, your best shot would be to practice and practice and practice. 

Practising your presentation will make it run smoothly. When practised enough, the words will come out almost effortlessly. It’s not the same as rote learning your speech. You’re supposed to know the correct order of your subject matter, and its contents. Worst come worst scenario, if you don’t have enough time to prepare and practise your presentations, this can help you out.

Should I make my presentation longer?

If you are reading this article, you might be afraid your presentation is too short. While short presentations are quite effective, sometimes you have no other choice but to make your presentation longer. Following are a few reasons why you might be feeling the need to make your presentations longer. 

  1. Unpreparedness: While short presentations have nothing to do with the presentation being underprepared, it can make you anxious. What if they don’t find it convincing? What if it doesn’t last long enough to be memorable? Et cetera. 
  1. Unconvincing: You should trust your gut. If your instincts don’t find the presentation long and convincing enough, extend it. After all, you can’t persuade other people if you have not satisfied yourself. 
  1. Not Memorable: If you feel your presentation won’t be memorable enough it’s most likely to do with the content you have put into it. If your content is engaging then even the shortest presentations are memorable. Nevertheless, if the presentation is legitimately getting over in a blip, you can perhaps make it last a little longer. 
  1. REALLY short: If your content should ideally last for three times more time than what it has turned out, elongate it. Covering just the critical bits also involves elaborating on them a little. 

How can I make my presentation longer?

Speak Slowly: Intelligent, innit? I mean, it’s an obvious hack to make any presentation longer. But sometimes we tend to l subconsciously speak faster. The slow and deliberate enunciation of every word can increase the duration of any presentation.

Fast speakers tend to cut their speech short. In such cases, use pauses. Silence is often unexpected during speeches. It makes the environment more interesting and garners attention from the public.

Add More Information: Now that you know the 10% of the information you can absolutely not do without, you can start expanding. Keep adding information in descending order of importance. After the most important stuff, you can add up to 25% of important stuff to make your speeches longer. 

By adding more information you can have more content at your disposal. You don’t have to necessarily talk about it but you can still have a backup plan if needed. Over-preparing will do you no harm. It will increase your prospects to do good. 

Engage With Audience: When you don’t have anything else to say, turn your monologue into a dialogue. Interacting with the audience can not only increase the duration of your presentation but also serve as a tool of better engagement. It will make your presentation memorable since there is a transactional format of communication taking place there. Check out the best interactions TED speakers had with their audiences to engage and elongate their presentations.

The Structure: When you write your presentations, you follow the standard structure – Introduction, Body and Conclusion. The entire speech answers five questions. These questions are: Why? What? Where? When? How? 

While writing short presentations, start your presentations by answering “Why?” Then in the body answer “What?” “Where?” “When?” And “How?” In the conclusion part, answer your “Why?” again, a little clearer this time, and then end the presentation. If you cannot answer all four questions in your body, ask “What?” three times and answer it. This will successfully make short presentations longer.

Media Products: Showing clips in the middle of your presentation can easily buy you 2-3 minutes of extra presentation time. They can serve you as a break from speaking and also give you extra data to talk about. You can always analyse the video after. This will add a few more minutes of discussion. 

Story Time: Writing your presentation in the form of a narrative and telling stories in the middle are two different things. Use your teacher’s tactics and tell stories in the middle of your presentations. Make sure your stories are not irrelevant though, time is a valuable resource. If your stories revolve around the key concept of your presentation, it will add the necessary razzle-dazzle to your speech.

These tips can easily add 3 to 5 minutes to your presentations. Obviously, you can employ one or more of these tips for how much time you need to add. 

Words that Make Presentations Longer

I always emphasise this fact: The written word and the spoken word are two very different things. A common mistake presenters make to make their presentation sound longer (and maybe smarter) are complicated words and extensive vocabulary. You cannot recite your academic paper and call it a presentation. You might intend to sound smart, but at the end of the day it will come across as a product of less effort. Presentations are meant to educate the masses in the layman’s language.

Never use the word ‘emolument’ when you mean ‘tip’. You might have seen a list of words and jargon to make essays longer. I would stand by my claim and not offer you a list of words to extend your presentation. Instead, here are a few phrases you can use that may catch your audience’s attention. You can use these phrases and idioms universally in any presentation you like. 

  1. Good morning/afternoon/evening, ladies and gentlemen. I am extremely grateful to you all for offering me a piece of your valuable time today.
  2. It is an honour to be delivering my keynote to such a distinguished audience today. 
  3. Before we delve into the topic for discussion, I would like to introduce you to myself and speak a few words about my own background. 
  4. I sincerely hope that this discussion will act as a springboard for ideas. 
  5. In this talk, I would like to convey to you a set of ideas which will be divided into…
  6. The focus of today’s discussion/talk/speech will be…
  7. I feel this talk will be of particular relevance to a significant portion of this audience since we will be focusing upon… and (relate your topic to the audience)…
  8. My plan to structure today’s speech is…
  9. I hope you leave the conference with an abundance of takeaways and cues to your new big projects.
  10. I hope this presentation can inspire you enough to get your ball rolling.
  11.  Please know that I am open to and quite inquisitive about knowing your thoughts and questions for the next half an hour. 

What should you include in a Short Presentation?

Short presentations follow no special pattern of delivery. Their formatting is similar to that of any presentation with one exception: time crunch. 

The Introduction of short presentations must be brief. It shouldn’t exceed 10-15% of the total time frame of the presentation. For example, if your presentation ought to be 5 minutes long then the introduction is approximately 15-30 seconds long. 

The Body of short presentations only focuses on 1-3 major points. If you try to cover too many pointers then the focus lifts from each of them. You won’t be able to deliver any of the subtopics with enough emphasis. Storytelling is powerful. If you use the five minutes to tell a story rather than enlisting facts for your audience, chances are that you will actually deliver your message.

The Conclusion is indeed a flexible part of the speech. But experts say you retain it in your content. Conclusion summarises the content that you spoke about. It sums up what you expect out of your audience now in 2-3 sentences. Understand that repetition retains information. Your audience will remember the main idea if you repeat and drill it into their heads enough times. 

You can check out our complete guide to delivering short presentations to gain in depth knowledge about how to write powerful 5 minute presentations.

Thesis Winning Short Presentations

Emily Johnston is currently a professor at the University of Tasmania. The above presentation was a three minute summary about her long thesis that talked about how she developed a novel mosquito-borne virus detection technique that puts nucleic acid-preserving paper coated in honey into mosquito traps made of pantyhose, paperclip and recycled milk cartons. A detailed overview of her work can be found here

Out of all the short presentations I went through, this one is particularly stunning. Emily spent years researching, analysing and formulating a theory which she was then asked to encapsulate within three minutes. She did a remarkable job too. She started off with a joke which accounted for a good introduction. Then she slowly divulged into the topic.

They followed The Structure format of short presentations, starting off with answering Why she is presenting this. Then she slowly divulged into the details of it carefully and strategically covering all the pointers. In conclusion she mentioned her cause again, drawing attention towards the poorer, more infected countries that need her invention. 

She was calm and composed throughout her speech, neither speaking too fast nor too slow. She was confident while speaking and her body language expressed it greatly. This was only possible because she knew all her material well. She knew what she was talking about and did not stutter. The speech was clear, brief, concise and respected the time of her audience. 

You never knew you could learn so much in three minutes. It was not only an excellent presentation but also an excellent preparation. I can’t begin to imagine how much she had practised it. The takeaways from this speech are immaculate for anybody striving to deliver excellent short presentations. 

All the pitches from Shark Tank can also be considered as Short Presentations.

In conclusion

In a world where our attention span keeps decreasing every day, presentations can never be too short. As long as you are delivering your presentation well, be assured that your presentation is enough. The best advertisements often last for 10 seconds and fetch the company millions of dollars after all. Be confident in yourself and deliver a killer short presentation. Size does not matter. 

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