I was on LinkedIn and ran across a discussion that caught my eye. The question that was posed was this: “You prepared a 30-minute presentation, and when you arrived, it was reduced to 20 minutes. What would you do?”
This is a common occurrence, of course. Meetings often run long. If you’re at the end of the day, you should probably expect that time will be running short when your turn comes around. Some of the responses to this question got things right. Others—like the person who said that the thing to do is talk faster—got it very wrong.
The issue comes down to flexibility. Business presenters need to be flexible regardless of how much time they have. They always need to respond to the immediate needs of the audience, and “let’s get this done more quickly” is just one of those needs. Here’s what we recommend to help presenters be more flexible:
- Prepare the shorter and longer version for each point or each slide. To help you with that, make sure your slide title is meaningful.
- Be able to explain your ideas in a variety of ways. As you prepare, think about how you would make your point to people with different perspectives or levels of knowledge.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your audience how they would like you to focus the presentation. This can be done after you’ve delivered your agenda. Say something like, “I know time is precious today, so which of these four points would you like me to focus on?”
- When you’re asked a question, deliver the short answer first. If you decide to say more, make sure it’s worth the time it takes to do so.
- Accept the idea that to be concise, you need to stop talking about something before you want to. This may sound silly, but it is absolutely true. Letting yourself talk until you’re satisfied usually doesn’t make the answer any better.
Managing a shorter-than-expected presentation can be frustrating, but a flexible presenter who stays focused on what the audience needs and wants to hear can succeed comfortably.