Time Please

You have to make a big presentation, to a very senior audience, it is one of those make or break points in your career.  Here is the question?  How much time do you need? These are very busy people, and, lets be honest, you probably want to be presenting to them far more than they want to be listening to you Two handfuls of tips:

  1. Know your message. Write it down.  Everything in your presentation that isn’t aligned to your message is wasteful, reflects badly on you and drags your meeting out
  2. Be honest, how long does it really take to get that message over.  Coke manage to sell a lot of pop off the back of 30 second commercials, OK your message might be a little more complex than that but what is the minimum time you can get away with?  The bare minimum to make your point?  Work with that
  3. Plan to finish early and give yourself some wriggle room
  4. Do you really need all of those graphs and data tables?  If you are clear, really clear what the story is then the answer is no.  If they want the data you can always send it on later, but my suspicion is that they will just want you to be clear.
  5. And all of that data makes you look insecure, stick to the relevant facts and, if you must, put the data in a hand out
  6. Provide handouts before the meeting.  Provide handouts after the meeting.  Don’t – do not – provide handouts during the meeting, your audience will read them and not pay a blind bit of attention to you (this is not generally considered a good thing)
  7. Start on time, it is rude not to, if people are late you can always summarise.
  8. If you start late, finish on time, it is rude not to, and it is your own fault
  9. Structure your story so that you can “ditch” (technical term meaning omit) bits if it is going on too long.  (If you have bits that you can legitimately “ditch” then question why you put them in in the first place)
  10. Don’t be too ambitious.  If it is honestly going to take 2 hours to cover off the salient facts then you will probably loose your audience anyway

Or, to put it another way: know the point, get to the point and stick to the point.

If you do that then your presentation will take exactly the right amount of time.  Not a second more.

And remember, nobody is ever, ever, ever going to complain if they get out of a meeting early 

Timely Meetings

Read another opinion

Image by hermitosis

P.S. You have to be British and over 30 to get the image.  Imagine your children rolling in at 3am not stinking of smoke, it’s another world


  1. Don’t forget the 20 minutes of ‘drinking-up time’ while the bar staff cleaned up around you…

  2. Jason Morris says:

    Thanks James, good stuff. I sort of bombed on my last opportunity, so I think this’ll be a big help next time around.

  3. James, insightful as always.

    I think that the stakeholder management ahead of the meeting is equally vital. This will ensure that they are ready and switched on for the meeting in the first place; or more importantly, that they may not want a meeting.

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