The Filling-In-Time Crime!

I’m sorry if I offend anyone here, but I recently went to see the “funniest movie in a decade” called The Hangover.  I found it torturous – 4 clever gags maybe, but a LOT of padding.  And I do like funny/silly movies – I just thought that this one didn’t match the hype.

Luckily it gave me time to eat popcorn and think. I came to the conclusion that being held captive in a cinema watching a tedious movie is only slightly better than being held captive in a torturous, long corporate presentation where the presenter is clearly filling in time. At least you get to munch some popcorn in the movies.

So today the topic is all about time-filling presenters.

The 28th American President, Woodrow Wilson, was a renowned public speaker who didn’t like wasting words.

One day he was asked how long it took him to fully prepare a 10 minute presentation:  “About 3 hours” he replied.

Then he was asked how long it took to prepare one of his 30 minute presentations:  ”About an hour and a half”, he replied.

Finally he was asked how long it took to prepare for a 2 hour presentation: “I don’t need any preparation – I could do that right now” he said.

The point is that any fool with lips can fill in time for two hours.

The real challenge is to take the time to filter out all of the unnecessary detail to present just what the audience needs to hear.

So what happens if you are asked to fill in a 45 minute slot, yet you think you could deliver something really powerful in 15 minutes?

The simple option

The simplest option is to not accept the time slot you have been given. If your presentation takes 15 minutes and you’re confident that you’re covering everything, then push back on the conference organisers and say that you can only do 15 minutes. When was the last time you heard someone say “I really loved that presentation/meeting – but I wish it could have gone on a bit longer”!

If they do let you go ahead with your shorter time slot I think you could be the surprise hit of the conference. The audience will love you for staying on-topic and punchy versus all the other speakers who simply accepted the times they were given.

Or, the fantastic option!

However, if there’s no getting out of your 45 minute slot, then try to ensure your time spent is interesting to the audience (read: not boring). The answer to this is to ensure you give them VARIATION.

  • You have probably read some research on attention spans being anything from 10-45 minutes long. That’s if you made it to the end of the research. I personally think that with the i-pod generation attention spans are closer to 10 minutes than 45 minutes.
  • This is why you need frequent new ways for the audience to consume information:
  • Ask them some questions.
  • Get them to do something relevant and interesting.
  • Is there an exercise at the start of your presentation where they can pull out a pen and write down 3 responses to a certain question? Compare good answers at the end – then have a laugh about the worst ones.
  • Highlight some research.
  • Pull out today’s newspaper – there will be something from TODAY that ties in with your message.
  • Show some footage.
  • Introduce a guest speaker as part of your speech – make it seem spontaneous and the audience will love it.

The point is:  Don’t fall victim to the “filling-in-time crime”. Quality rather than quantity always wins the presentation race!

At our presentation skills workshops I will give you some great ideas about how to strip out all the fluff, and to engage your audience with impact.  Give me a call anytime!

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