How long is a good presentation?

Insight

Every time I host an event I set up a Wechat group as a way to share the content from the talk and also stay connected with the audience and answer questions.

In China Wechat is an insanely powerful tool as it is never more than arm's reach away and if you do the battery test on the iPhone, it's always in the top three apps that people spend their battery life and attention using, so it's always good to be where the action is.

Question

Recently Kevin in one of my presentation focused groups asked me "how long should a presentation be?" Thanks, Kevin this is a good question, it doesn’t have one simple answer but let me share the structure and approach I use.

 

Answer

As with all things presentation related it all comes down to your audience your goals and why you are engaging people with your ideas.

There isn’t a single answer, but there are some structures and frameworks you can apply, to decide how long a presentation should be, always ask yourself:

  1. Who am I engaging?
  2. What is the goal?
  3. Why am I sharing my insights?
  4. How much time do we have?

 

How much time do we have?

Time is the one asset we all have the same amount of each day, and it all comes down to what we do with it that counts. Knowing how long you have with the audience allows you to structure the content in the most suitable way to make sure your audience appreciates their time with you.

As a rule of thumb, I use the following six structures A - F as a framework to engage with people.

A) 7 seconds

B) 10-40 seconds

C) 1-2 minutes

D) 3-8 minutes

E) 10-25 minutes

F) 25-50 minutes

 

These six structures range from super quick pitch introductions at networking to longer format presentations at conferences and events.

 

Let me break each one down

A) 7 seconds at a networking event is a great duration to say hello and introduce yourself sharing why you do what you do which then leads to a conversation.

 

B) 10-40 seconds is good for a short elevator pitch which avoids too many details but gives people enough information to have a clear understanding and retain something memorable from your exchange.

 

C) 1-2 minutes for an introduction to a project, product or service where you can highlight who you help, why that matters and some wow reveal that is memorable for the audience in front of you.

 

D) 3-8 minutes to share a topic and one short story which goes into more detail and starts to establish your expert status and insights but does not overload people with correct but non-essential details and facts.

 

E) 10-25 minutes for sharing up to three different stories which clearly define a deep understanding of an industry or issue and provides context and understanding along with well-structured data.

 

F) 25-50 minutes for captivating and entertaining an audience and informing them with your unique skills and establishing expert status, in-depth knowledge, key insights and background information which is relevant.

 

Conclusion

Any more than 50 minutes and people's energy levels for effectively staying focused starts to drain and your message and presentation starts to deliver diminishing returns, so the best thing to do is keep a presentation within 50 minutes or schedule in short 5 minute breaks to give everyone time to stretch and refresh.

These timeframes are of course just a guide and framework as it always comes down to addressing the audience in front of you, knowing your goals and structuring the best content to achieve these goals.

 

So thanks to Kevin in the Wechat group for asking the question and I hope this framework helps you structure your presentation, be more memorable and efficient as you present.

Thank you for reading this far, I appreciate your time, if you have any questions, please ask below in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.