Don’t make them want to fast-forward you

Maybe I’ve got spoiled by my TV set-top box but, in so many of the presentations I’ve attended recently, I would love to have a remote-control with a fast-forward button! I’m sure you know what I mean – you really want to hear the useful and valuable information that the speaker has to offer. But so often, they drag out the trivial low-value material and then run out of time before they really hit the important stuff.

So when you’re presenting, how do you make sure that your audience doesn’t think about pressing your fast-forward button?

Here are three danger areas:

1.  Delivering too much background.  If you find yourself saying the words “Before I start…” – take stock.  You HAVE started!  So get on with it and “cut to the chase”.  Another danger-phrase (among many) is “let me give you some background…”

It’s my experience that presenters over estimate how much background an audience actually needs.  I cringe when I attend a seminar and they spend ages at the beginning, telling me how useful this material is going to be.  I wouldn’t be there if I didn’t think it was going to be useful so… please move on. Telling me that it’s going to be useful is not actually useful – stop selling and start telling!

And this one is really common – “To start, let me tell you something about our company.”  Quick – where’s the remote?

2.  Labouring the easy and obvious.  If something is complex, difficult or new, then it makes sense to take your time explaining with examples and analogies and a visual (not verbal) aid to help the audience understand.  But if it’s not rocket science – pick up the pace!  Just deliver the briefest of explanations and observe your audience to tell whether they’ve got it or not.

It’s better to have them ask a clarifying question than to labour the obvious and seem to be treating them like idiots.

3.  Not providing value.  If your audience is looking for a solution to a problem, spending a lot of time talking about the problem will make them want to fast-forward you – so that you get on to the solution. If your audience wants to know the reason why something is happening, they’ll get frustrated hearing you talk about what‘s going on. And if they want to know what action they should take, move through your research and findings and fascinating analysis as quickly as possible (if in fact it’s even necessary) so that you can get on to tell them what they should do.

Audiences want value. They want material that they can use – not just new or interesting – they want practical.  Deliver that and they’ll be engaged. Get that wrong and they’ll hit the fast-forward button – interrupting you with questions to try and garner some value before time, or attention, runs out.

It’s the planning that matters

The time to get this right is the planning stage.  Think about your audience – what do they already know about this topic?  How much background do they really need to understand your recommendations?  Most audiences are smarter than we give them credit for.  Get to the value ASAP.

If you’re using our SpeakerMap system you’ll know how to divide your material into (usually three) sections. These don’t have to be the same length.  In most presentations the time-wasting happens at the beginning and the good stuff, comes near the end. So savagely edit the earlier sections, cut back the slides and when you’re delivering, stick religiously to your plan and don’t add more content ‘on-the-fly’.  Then you’ll get a reputation for being sharp.

And when audiences know it’s you who’s presenting, they won’t bring their remotes!