How to cut down your presentation at a moment’s notice

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How to cut down your presentation at a moment’s notice

What would you do if you had prepared for an important presentation lasting 20 minutes but just before you are to speak you’re told you have to give that presentation in only 10 minutes?

According to many of my clients, this is a very common scenario, especially in multi-national companies.

What you shouldn’t do is try to get through all your content in half the time by speaking very quickly! Although this may be your first instinct, it will result in none of your messages being communicated successfully to the audience and you, as a presenter will lose credibility.

Here is what you need to do instead.

The first and most important thing is to be prepared, and here I mean to be prepared for this eventuality.

The scenarios that most lend themselves to your presentation time being cut in half are:

  • If you are one of many people speaking and your presentation is scheduled for a late slot
  • Presenting to an audience of senior executives who have overflowing agendas and pressing commitments.

If you are going to speak in either of the above contexts, (or similar) you need to prepare a presentation that is flexible.

Here is how you can get flexibility into your presentation.

  1. Prepare to open with your key message

In today’s world of short attention spans, it’s always a good idea to lead with your key message; it captures people’s attention and gives them a reason to listen. It’s even more essential when you believe your presentation time might be cut down because it helps you to keep focused. When you lead with your key message, it’s not too difficult to expand simply by adding on the most important points that support that key message.

However, to do this effectivley it’s useful to decide whether you’ll plan and structure your presentation using a layering or a modularizing approach,

  1. Using a layering approach

Think of an onion to illustrate this. An onion has layers that we peel away until we get to the very white centre. Imagine this white centre is your key message, the most important takeaway you want your audience to leave with. The next layer has other main points that directly support that key message. Then you have the details that support those main points—which together make up a third layer.

If your presentation time gets cut down, you would leave out the details that support the key points. If your time gets cut down drastically you would leave out some of layer two to only communicate the most important supporting points.

  1. Using a modularizing approach

This means designing your presentation in “modules” or sections that you can eliminate if necessary. You still give your key message first, but you don’t share all of your main points. Instead, you leave out some of the points altogether, depending on how much time you have.

The criteria here is to focus on one main supporting argument and communicate that well, rather than rushing through all the sections and not communicating any of them effectively

  1. Prepare two slide decks

The final step in this process is to adjust your slide deck. In addition to the full slide deck, you also need to prepare a second side deck in line with the approach above that you’ve chosen.

By thinking ahead and preparing your presentation in this way, you’ll not only feel more confident about being able to cut it down at a moment’s notice, you’ll also come across as extremely professional and credible.

And even if you don’t need to present your layered or modularized version in the end, this is still a useful exercise for looking at presentation content and being able to strip it down to the essentials – a great example in KISSing, that popular presentation acronym – Keep It Short & Simple

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My mission is to help employees in multinational companies learn the skills and techniques they need to give outstanding presentations in English and receive the visibility and recognition they deserve.

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