As a presentation skills expert, people frequently ask, “Patricia, what happens when I have to cut my presentation?” For professional speakers it is not uncommon to be booked for an hour’s time and have your slot cut to 40 minutes to keep the client on schedule. Business meetings often run over and take a lot longer than scheduled. Let’s face it, if the boss speaks an extra 20 minutes, you will have to cut time from your presentation.
My best advice? Do not apologize. Do not say, “Oh, my time has been cut short by 20 minutes.
Let Your Speech Structure Guide You
Ideally, when you prepare a presentation you should plan what you will do if it needs to be shortened or lengthened. In any case, remember that structure is central to your presentation. (When you prepare a presentation, always start by structuring your content. Do this before you create your first PowerPoint slide.)
When you have to shorten a presentation, use your structure as your guide. This will help you quickly choose what is essential to your message and what you can cut. You will need to preserve your central theme, talking points, and conclusion to guarantee you can still get your message across to your audience.
Your Big Idea
Every speech, report, conversation, or meeting is built around a big idea you want to get across. In a presentation, this is your premise or central theme. Always organize your presentation around supporting your big idea.
Start with a good opening to arouse interest in your big idea. This can be a story, a question, a rhetorical question, or an interesting statistic. It might be as simple as a “Welcome to the January sales meeting.” Get off to a good start by capturing your audience’s interest and then transition into the body of your presentation.
This is where your talking points come in. Or, what I like to call your “points of wisdom.” These are chunks of content that support your big idea. You might organize a talking point like this: Introduce a concept, explain that concept, give an example, and let the audience know what you want them to do with this information.
As you shorten a presentation, choose the most important talking points and include these. If you’ve prepared three, you might only have time to deliver your two strongest points. Or, You can shorten and deliver all three talking points as long as you can still present them as complete thoughts.
Include a quick review of your talking points and reinforce your big idea. If it’s appropriate, take questions. Always close on a high.
Do not apologize. Do not speak too quickly. Remember, your audience had no idea what you had planned to say. Do your best. Don’t worry. You’ll be amazing!
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“When we hired Patricia Fripp to improve our sales conversations and presentations, my expectations were high. Patricia Fripp’s customized approach before, during, and after with her FrippVT online learning has resulted in more and larger sales. Patricia’s ability to excite, inform, and coach our team was impressive.”
– Scott Hamilton, Vice President of Sales, Distech Controls
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