Why it is so hard to fit all my important information into the allotted time – and what to do about it?

Do you expect your audience to drink from a firehose of information?

Do you ever find yourself “firehosing” your audience by giving them too much content, much too fast? Have you found yourself halfway through and feeling there is not nearly enough time for all your important content? It can be really challenging to provide substantial information and provide value to the audience in a short amount of time. It can feel like every detail is critically important. As a detail-oriented person, I faced these challenges and often turned a firehose of information on my audiences or found myself halfway through my time when I was only a quarter of the way through my important information.

Some of my clients face these same challenges. I help many of my clients figure out what is the key information they need to share and organize it in a way that their audience will remember it.

Organizing a presentation to fit the allotted time is something that looks like it should be easy, but actually isn’t. When watching a good presenter, it just flows and finishes a few minutes early. It’s simple to follow. It makes sense. They seem to have done it easily; no effort involved.

I suspect that a good part of the frustration stems from this perception: “This should be easy…why is it so hard?”

Want to know why?

Let me tell you!

Here are 3 things that make staying on time a challenge.

1. Presenting within the allotted time is a skill – and you may not have learned it yet

Think of the first time you tried to anything, maybe riding a bike. Did it go perfectly the first time or did you fall down repeatedly? Riding a bike takes learning what to do and then practice.

We all know how to “speak” – but in a regular conversation time isn’t quite as important as it is when presenting to a group of people. That is a specific skill.

Doing a great presentation that flows, feels well paced, and ends a few minutes early is learnable. And it requires some practice and experience.

The lack of skill part is easy to rectify. You just need to learn a few tools to organize your speech to fit within the time and practice it to make sure you can finish early (even with questions or other interruptions).

The second challenge may be difficult

2. Doing a great presentation within the allotted time takes work

Very few people can spend no time preparing and give a presentation that stays within the allotted time. Those people who try to wing a presentation often end up going off on tangents and going over the allotted time. For most people, a memorable and engaging presentation that stays within the allotted time takes work.

You first need to determine what your audience needs to know. That is not everything you know. The second thing is to determine the purpose of your presentation is. What do you want them to think, feel, or do after your presentation? That will help you decide what information to include and what to leave out.

Divide your content into three big buckets

You then need to organize your content in a way that will be engaging and memorable. When you get to the fact portion of your presentation, it really helps to divide your important information into three big buckets. You can then subdivide those buckets, if there is enough time available.

Finally, you need to practice your presentation until it is inside you. When you practice, time each segment of your presentation. Make sure you can fit everything within the allotted time with time to spare. Remember to allocate time for interactions with you audience, particularly if you are using a poll or a game, or are inviting the audience to ask you questions.

The final challenge may be the hardest to resolve, without a change of mindset.

3. You may not think you have the time to prepare to do your presentation within the allotted time

You may be thinking that you have your “real” job to do and don’t have time for all this. But, did you know, that doing a presentation that goes overtime or where the content is crammed into the final few minutes will impact you as the presenter and the organization you represent. It can harm your career or your business and you may not be seen as an expert. It can harm the reputation of your organization and it may lose or not gain clients. If you go overtime, you audience is unlikely to be interested in your call to action.

Is your “real” job more important than your career, your organization’s reputation, or getting or keeping clients? Do you want your audience to hate you?

I was at a conference in 2014 where the final presenter was supposed to finish at 2pm. She was still talking at 2:40 and I think finally finished at 2:45pm. I was panicking as I had to pick up a rental car and drive to the B&B I had booked that was 3 hours away. I was actually starting to hate her. As she droned on and on, I had definitely stopped listening and was thinking about how I was going to get where I was going before all the restaurants in that small town closed for the evening. If the presenter asked me to do something at the end, there was no way I was going to do it.

So what can you do to stay within time?

There are several things you can do:

  • Think about what information your audience needs from you and your purpose in speaking to them.
  • Time your presentation when you are practicing and make sure you finish a few minutes early. Build in time for audience interaction
  • Recognize the importance of staying on time and the impact on you and your organization if you don’t

To get really good at staying within the allotted time, you will likely need to gain experience in public speaking. Toastmasters is a great organization to help you practice public speaking and focus on how much time you have available.

What else can you do to make your informative presentations memorable and engaging?

Staying on time is just one aspect of what makes an informative presentation memorable and engaging. To learn about the other nine aspects, book a free AMP Up Session https://calendly.com/brenda-memorablepresenter/45min-amp_up. This session includes a facilitated self-Assessment of the Memorability of your Presentations.