Inarticulate ramblings of a management consultant

the day to day experiences of a consultant operating in weird and wonderful client situations

Life beyond powerpoint – the challenge of a mid afternoon 30 minute speaking slot with a virtual and in-room audience

During a recent book tour in Asia (for the very few who haven’t heard about or indeed read my book ‘Save the Silver Bullet’ (!) I was confronted with this particular challenge…and what a nightmare it is.

Oren Klaff (author of ‘Pitch Anything’ an excellent book on sales in general) describes the challenge of a subject matter expert communicating his / her knowledge in a way which connects with the audience, who are not subject matter experts, and whose boredom threshold is therefore normal. It’s very important to recognize that your and my own boredom threshold in a subject of our choice is not remotely normal…that’s why we’re subject matter experts!

So back to my 30 minute scenario, talking to an audience who have already probably found the comfort of their mobile phone  to entertain them…because the speakers aren’t doing it for them….what are the choices in terms of powerpoint and preparation?

  1. You can speak incredibly quickly…to cover the material which is already pared down from what you initially put together
  2. You can prepare 40 slides…and convince yourself that most of those are transitions anyway and you’ll pass over them in a few seconds.
  3. You can start slowly, realise that you’re not going to cover the material, cut huge chunks on the day…and confuse yourself and the audience!

I’ve seen all of these and probably done most of them by the way!


You can put yourself in the shoes of the audience who are faced with a day of 30 minute presentations. In my experience, that’s a bit like being in a form of intellectual ‘whip lash’, resulting in the sort of ‘brain dead’ experience that we all had as children. (Remember those days before ipads, talking tapes, handheld gaming devices, where the only entertainment was staring out of the window on a 5 hour car journey to some beach somewhere…awake but certainly not receptive).

I think there are five critical things to think about:

  1. Start by identifying the two burning issues which you want to address
  2. Make sure from the feedback that you’ve received that how you deliver those two burning issues is eye catching, thought provoking and creates an impression. I know this sounds like a sales approach…but let’s be honest…that is what you doing…selling.
  3. Develop a introduction and conclusion which are truly memorable. That doesn’t mean a recitation of your credentials and career experience or a summary of what you’ve just said…no one cares, you’re there to entertain them during a day which started with a degree of honest endeavour and ended in a text fest!
  4. Tell at least one story…trust me, that is they will remember
  5. Practice…you owe it to them and to yourself. Don’t be fooled by the time, shorter is much harder than longer…and therefore requires more practice

And your reward? Amidst the debris of dullness from the day, you will be memorable.

Categories: Defying gravity, Language, Learning, Public speaking, Selling

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