I ask people who download my presentation planning guide what they find hardest about presenting. Here are some of the answers:

  • Being concise
  • Finishing on time
  • Fitting everything into the allotted time
  • Finding a balance between presenting too much and too little
  • Not giving too much info.

It’s a common problem. Most of us have far too much too say.

Long presentations rarely achieve more than short ones. The longer the presentation, the more information there is for audience members to process. And so the less likely they are to get your core message.

It does take time to edit:

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Here’s a checklist of 9 ways to edit your presentation:

1. Ensure your presentation has only one focus.

If you were to ask a member of the audience afterwards, “What was my core message?” they should be able to give you a one-sentence answer without struggling.

If you’re at a loss to see how to shorten your presentation this is the first action to take. Ask yourself “If a person in my audience only remembered one thing from my presentation, what would I want it to be?”. That’s your focus.

2. Cut anything from your presentation which does not relate to that core message.

Examine every point you’re making in your presentation. If it doesn’t support your core message, out it goes.

3. Have no more than 3 main points in your presentation

You’ve doubtless heard of the “rule of three”. It’s used effectively time and time again. In an excellent post “Presenting complex information: 10 simple rules every subject matter expert needs to know” Ian Griffin says:

Three items act as a powerful unifying format. Examples:
• Three key themes that together cover a wide area.
• Three items that act in sequence to get to a desired goal.
• Two problems and a solution that resolves the problem.
• Two actions or objectives and a solution that will result from achieving these.

4. Chunk items together

If you have more than 3 points to cover in your presentation and they all seem essential – chunk them into three areas. For example, we were once working with an environmental agency on a presentation to introduce their new water policy. The water policy had 13 action steps. The audience would have been overwhelmed if they had tried to present 13 different items. Instead we chunked them into three main points which formed the framework of the presentation.

5. Restrict the number of items in a list

Whether it be a list of reasons, benefits or disadvantages, restrict your list to three items. You might think if your idea, product or service has several benefits you should list them all. But some benefits will be stronger than others. Cover the top three benefits for the particular audience you’re presenting to. Make those benefits powerful rather than skimming weakly over several.

6. Cut secondary stories or examples

Every point you make should be supported by a story, example, statistic, endorsement, metaphor or analogy. But it rarely needs more than one. If you have two brilliant stories for one point you’ll be tempted to include them both.  We were working with a financial adviser who came up with two great analogies for stock market movements that he wanted to include in his presentation. We advised him not to. Your audience will get the point from your first analogy – and then will be ready to move on.

7. Tighten your explanations

It’s easy to start waffling if you haven’t practiced explaining a complex concept. Rehearse your explanations until you say everything that is essential to understanding, and nothing that obscures it.

8. Rehearse your stories

Equally, if you don’t rehearse your stories you may find yourself going round in circles or adding in unnecessary details. Fine tune your story through rehearsal until you have all the details that make it come alive for your audience, but you’ve culled the fluff that doesn’t move the story forwards. A story doesn’t need to be long to make an impact.

9. Create a handout

Creating a handout will make you feel more comfortable about cutting stuff out of your presentation. If you’re prevaricating about whether to cut an item – put it in the handout and let you audience know that it’s there.

What are the things you look for when you’re editing a presentation?

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