August 4, 2008

Do presentations eat up meeting time by including too many slides?

During my presentations on meeting management, I usually recommend telling any presenters when invited to a meeting exactly how long they have to present and how much time should be allowed for questions. Then I go one step further and also suggest limiting the number of PowerPoint slides the presenter may bring in relation to the talk time. My recommendation is 2-3 minutes per slide for technical talks and up to 5 minutes per slide on non- technical subjects. Why impose presentation limits? This greatly reduces the chance that the presenter will read from the slides and that the audience may suffer from information overload.

Can limiting the number of slides by time really can be done? YES! I recently spoke to a technical group, who preferred their presenters show PowerPoint slides during their talk and provide copies as handouts. I typically do not use slides unless I am leading a training class. Since I always strive to meet my audience needs, for this presentation I prepared six slides (with 3 to 17 words on each slide, which is less than the Rule of 6) to show plus one slide that would only be in the handout. The extra handout slide was a resource page that provided the audience with contact information for me, how to find the book the presentation was based on, and where they could go to get more information on the topic. After the presentation, many members of the audience told me or the meeting coordinator how much they appreciated the presentation. Most said they would use much of what they learned during the presentation. Not one person complained that I did not provide enough slides!

Another meeting presentation tip I share is to ask the presenter to arrive 5-10 minutes before their scheduled presentation time and plan to stay that long after their presentation time. The early arrival insures they are ready to present if the meeting is ahead of schedule. It is better that the one presenter allows more of their time than that the entire group has to spend time waiting for them to show up. The presenter planning to stay late means they do not have to leave for another appointment before their presentation time, just in case the meeting is running a little late, or there are more questions than anticipated. If the subject is controversial or highly technical, then the presenter may want to provide a supplemental handout after the talk or wrap-up with information on how the audience can get more details like a website or toll-free phone number.

Use these ideas in your meetings and presentation to save time. Please share others ways with our readers on how you save time in meetings when someone is asked to give an informal or formal presentation by adding comments.

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