Have you noticed this? That just about everyone wants what I’m calling “quaranteeny” virtual presentations these days? I hear it from clients, who are realizing their teams just don’t have the time or energy to sit on a virtual call for 90, or even 60, minutes. Maybe you’re the one suddenly struggling to figure out how to get your previously big, beautiful presentation to fit into only 20 or 30 minutes.
And more than that, how can you get all your information to fit and count? How can you make sure people understand it, agree with it, and act on it?
One of the easiest ways to think about it is this: there’s a distinct relationship between the information you’re giving and people’s capacity to process it. What’s the relationship? People’s capacity to process information is defined by both time and attention:
- How much information you’re sharing in the time you have with them
- How much attention they can give you (or want to)
So, the answer is pretty clear when it comes to these quaranteeny presentations. To be successful, you have to create an experience that matches your information to their time and attention.
How? I just so happen to have spent most of my presenting career in exactly these “teeny” time frames, though thankfully without the quarantine part until now. In my 13 years as a Weight Watchers leader (which I did alongside my full-time work in brand and message strategy), I gave over 3,000 presentations, most of which were 30 minutes or less. Even in the longer “meetings,” my task was to only present 15-20 minutes of content. The rest of the time was in facilitated discussion and peer-to-peer sharing.
I’ve also spent seven (!!) years now working deeply with the speakers at TEDxCambridge, one of only 10 “legacy” TEDx events in the entire world. Six of those speakers have been promoted to TED.com, and the remainder have well over 10 million YouTube views, combined. That’s not to mention the dozens of other speakers who’ve wanted to find their way to a TEDx stage — and to the challenges of that three- to 18-minute timeframe. Based on all of that, here are three techniques to try:
- Make a meeting of it. Take your inspiration from my Weight Watchers meetings! Choose a topic, choose one objective, draft a high-level outline (like a Red Thread or Conversational Case) that you cover for 1/3 or 1/2 of your time, and then open up the rest of the time to discussion. You could also break your content down into a few smaller sections (say, 5 to 10 minutes each) and have shorter discussions afterward. I’ve seen Seth Godin do this “present-discuss-repeat” technique very effectively at live events. No matter which you try, don’t forget to reserve a minute or two at the end to wrap everything up powerfully! The interaction that keeps people’s attention is built in, as is the ability for people to ask the questions that make your content immediately relevant to them.
- Break it up (like Brant!). My friend and speaking colleague Brant Menswar shared with me how he’s adapted my “Why, What Now, How” approach to create a series of quaranteeny presentations. Brant takes his 60-minute keynote and breaks it up into three 20-minute presentations, spread out over several weeks. That allows him to add in “homework” and time for the audience to reflect more deeply on his information. It also means he can start each of the latter “parts” of his talk talking with the audience to make sure they’re on board, answer open questions, and help them as they’re putting his information to work.
- Talk like TED. Aside from the fact that “Talk like TED” is a great book by Carmine Gallo, it’s also great advice for quaranteeny talks. So, how do you do that? That’s obviously a topic that can fill a book, a la Carmine, but the biggest takeaway is this: don’t try to squish a bigger talk in smaller timeframe. Build a new one from the ground up. Since my Red Thread® approach was originally developed for TED-style talks, it’s often the fastest way to find and outline how you could talk about your ideas. Because what you get as a result starts short, it makes it a lot easier to keep it short. In fact, the shortest summary always can and should fit into a very short paragraph (I call this the Red Thread Storyline™):
We can all agree we want to know…[shared GOAL].
While there are barriers to that problem we all know exist, the real problem is… [unknown, but real PROBLEM].
Yet we can agree it’s true that… [shared TRUTH].
Which means, to achieve our Goal, we have to… [CHANGE in thinking or behavior.]
How? By… [required ACTION(S)].
Want even more ideas? Maybe one of these will help:
- How to change your audience in a short presentation
- How I build presentations in 5 steps
- Short on space or time for your message? Do this.
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