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Presentation Timing: How to Stay on Time



Most sales professionals are asked to give presentations from time to time. If someone says you’ve got 60 minutes to present, do not create 60 slides. What’s going to happen if you have 60 slides? You’ll be rushing through them; or worse yet, you’ll be strolling through them very leisurely, perhaps getting derailed by a couple of offbeat questions and maybe even a personal story… and then you look up at the clock… and you’re horrified to find that you only 20 minutes remaining! You still have 40 slides to get through, and it’s a disaster. Everybody in the audience gets increasingly uncomfortable, because not only are you not covering the remaining material with sufficient depth; you are also making them anxious that you're not going to finish your presentation in time. Believe me, an anxious audience is lot less receptive to your ideas.

Now how do you make sure that you don’t go over your allotted time (or have to rush through your slides)? Number one: you practice. Number two: if you’re given an hour, you make about 25 minutes worth of slides. Face it. You know you're going to start five or ten minutes late; you know you're going to be interrupted by a couple of questions; you know you’re going to want to have a Q&A at the end; and you know you want to have an open-ended discussion to take your audience’s temperature after you finish your remarks. You should also factor in the possibility that one of your most high-value attendees may have to leave the meeting early. You really have to design your presentation with all of these contingencies in mind.

Here’s a tip: Before you start delivering the presentation, check in to make sure you still have the agreed-upon time for the presentation… and also ask the audience directly if anyone will need to leave early. Probably 50% of the time, someone is going to pipe up and say, “Well, now that you mention it, I’ve got a plane to catch. I’ll have to leave here about fifteen minutes early to catch my ride to the airport.”

You should always “put the last slide first” because if that person is the ultimate decision-maker and you don’t reach that point in your presentation before he or she has to leave early to catch that plane, believe me, you’ll be kicking yourself the whole way home. 

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Posted by Mark Jewell