There is nothing worse than sitting in the audience, checking your watch as you wait for the speaker to close, knowing your presenter still has 8 more main points to cover and you have already heard 14 of them! When this happens it is interesting to note that the speaker usually seems totally unaware that the audience has lost interest.
A good presenter knows his limitations; a mediocre presenter does not.
The advice given by all who write on public speaking, from highbrow collegiate texts to the numerous ebooks available at your disposal on the internet, is that you should limit your main points to anywhere between 2 and 5. Admittedly, there are some who can get away with more than that but they are few and far between. (Steven Covey happens to be one of them!)
If you find that you are creating your presentation with the idea that you want to say as much as possible, stop and rethink that approach. The purpose of public speaking is to inform, persuade, or entertain. In all three situations the secret of those who are truly successful is to leave their audiences wanting more.
Most people today have a limited attention span when it comes to public speaking. We are too busy, too harried, and too scheduled to be able to enjoy a 2-hour speech. While 120 minutes of scripted material was common in the days before radio, TV, and film, today it is important to recognize that your audience has an attention span that generally does not last for more than 40 – 50 minutes of material.
When you create your speech or presentation, limit your main points and ‘tighten them up.’ Look at each of your main points as one individual block of material and avoid that which is superfluous. By all means use anecdotes but make sure your anecdotes are relevant to that particular block of information. The tighter your presentation, the less likely your audience will be packing up their portfolios and hoping to make a quick getaway before you finally arrive at your closing.
Years ago I was giving a presentation on voice and I remember thinking afterwards that I had forgotten to discuss projection, which is the ability to increase your volume without shouting. I wanted to kick myself afterwards but then I realized that my audience didn’t know I had forgotten anything because they didn’t know my script. Was I less successful because I had forgotten something? No.
If your presentation is well-planned, well-timed and tight in its format, don’t be tempted to add more material on the spot, droning on and on, no matter how receptive your audience. One of the best pieces of advice my mother taught me was to always get up from the table feeling like you could eat more. Take that advice and apply it to your next presentation. Don’t try your audience’s patience – leave them wanting more.
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. Visit Voice Dynamic and watch Nancy as she describes Your Least Developed Tool!