Monday, December 14, 2009

Why less is probably more when it comes to presentation length

From a young age we are led to believe that more is more, that is to say that your essays should be as long as possible, your projects should be far in excess of the minimum length requirement and your show and tell should be as lengthy and detailed a talk as possible.

It is rather unfortunate that we are allowed to believe this from such a young age as it results in what only can be described as truly awful speeches and presentations!

When it comes to giving a presentation LESS is often more, the reality is that people have limited attention spans and their brains can only absorb so much information in one sitting, therefore they will remember the first and last few minutes of your hour long presentation... and no more than that.

Great public speakers across the board from politicians to comedians recognise this fact and put it into practice when they talk to their respective audiences. They recognise that a presentation is about the audience, not about them. They recognise that it is their job to get the message across in a way that will be memorable and that will result in an action, not to stand atop a podium and show off how eloquently and comprehensively they can discuss an issue.

Abraham Lincoln is best remembered for his “Gettysburg Address”, a speech which is widely regarded as being one of the best speeches made by a US president. And while many people have heard of this speech, they have most likely not heard that Lincoln was not the main speaker at event, and more importantly that his speech was under 275 words and lasted less than three minutes.

Edward Everett was up before Lincoln on that day, and delivered a speech that was 13,500 in length... I have never heard of Mr. Everett and his role in the Gettysburg Address, in fact I doubt very few non-historians have heard of his speech.

Length is often not everything, if you can get your message across in a short concise talk, like Mr. Lincoln then you should probably do so!

Originally posted at my presentation blog

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