November 5, 2020

5 ways to improve your micro-presentations

Have you noticed presentations getting shorter? I have!

Because speakers are onscreen, sitting at desks, or on the couch, or in the kitchen while we're presenting, it's much easier to switch speakers quickly at online conferences and summits.

One of my clients told me about speaking at an event where there were ten speakers in a hour. Other clients and colleagues have reported being asked to give 3-minute presentations. The madness of it all! 😵

While this may not be ideal for your topic OR your audience (many event organizers have no idea how long it actually takes to give a certain amount of information while also being engaging and interactive and persuasive), it's reality.

In fact, I give only 2-3 minutes in my retreats and corporate trainings for my attendees to practice their presentations. Micro-presentation are a great way to distill down your content to its essence, and an effective exercise for learning conciseness.

But they're not easy, and they come with unique challenges.

It's even more critical to stick to your time in the online presentation environment. When you go over, it pushes everyone else back – just like when you present in person. Which is already not a good idea, and an unprofessional practice.

But with tighter time frames and people tuning in from home, there is much more likelihood of someone going straight from one meeting to the next with no break in between. Your audience is now jumping from one Zoom call to another with seconds to spare.

Not to mention the fact that your audiences are dealing with home-based school and more responsibilities than ever just outside the periphery of their screen

Your audience is invisible; not only can they can turn off their mic and video camera and go on with other duties like folding laundry or making lunch, they can also just–poof–sign off without anyone even noticing.

Here are a couple of quick tips to make the most of a virtual presentation under ten minutes long and ensure that you're not causing your audience members to drop the call because you weren't prepared.

1. Script out anything of vital importance. While analyzing the above client's presentation, we discovered that there were some pieces missing. But with a time frame of 7 minutes, her presentation was already bulging at the seams.

I suggested she streamline the content a little more, and then very strictly script out the extra content, rehearse it, and use the script while presenting.

I rarely recommend using a script because most people are just not good at reading them in a way that sounds natural and conversational. In this case, however, the new addition of some critical content would be about 30 seconds long.

It's worth it to script out, practice, and read aloud material that is vital to your presentation but might push you over the limit.

While bullet points are practical to allow free-flowing and spontaneous discussion in a regular presentation, a micro-presentation might require more scripting than a longer one.

However, scripting REQUIRES practice. So if you decide to script out part or all of your short presentation, you must practice it enough to sound natural. Just think back over a speaker you've listened to who sounded robotic and mechanical. Don't be that person.

2. Build in a cushion. If you get cut off by someone going longer ahead of you, you don't want to cut off the speaker after you as well. Everyone will remember the person who goes on too long–for the wrong reason. You don't want to be remembered as the one who pushed everyone else back.

Building in a cushion means that you end a 3-minute presentation at 2 minutes 45 seconds. Oftentimes when we practice, our presentations are shorter than when we give them in front of an audiences. The nuances of pacing often change when we're live.

So if your presentation is supposed to be 7 minutes long, practice it up to 6 minutes and 30 seconds, or even a little bit less.

3. Cut out all extraneous content beforehand. There is no time for extended "thank yous," filler words or anything that is not critical. Micro-presentations need to be refined in terms of seconds, not minutes, so be brutal with your editing.

This includes exercises and activities. If you're going to use a poll, breakout rooms, a handout, a game or another kind of engagement activity, time it. Don't use two polls if you only have time for one. Ask two questions instead of three. Tighten up the amount of time it takes to get the audience's focus back after an activity. Again: PRACTICE.

4. Be willing to edit as you go. This also takes practice, and experience, so this is another reason I recommend making and accepting as many speaking engagements as possible. 

I once missed a paragraph of a 10-minute story I was delivering at a storytelling event. The content was scripted and rehearsed, but I still forgot my place and skipped ahead. Because of my decades of experience, I was able to smoothly re-insert the missed paragraph a minute or so later, without missing a beat.

When speakers ahead have gone on too long, you might find yourself with five minutes to deliver a 7-minute presentation. You need to know all the content that can be cut on the fly and be willing to edit as you go. 

You can be the hero and save the day, getting everyone out of the meeting in time for their next commitment! Or you can be the one who refuses to acknowledge that the event is running late and still gives your entire presentation. Not cool.

5. Practice. Yep, I said it again. The less experienced you are, the more likely your sense of timing needs to be developed. Short presentations need to be tight and free of extraneous content, but still engaging, informative and persuasive. Just do it. Practice.

For good or bad, micro-presentations are here to stay. They require a level of focus and structure that longer presentations don't. Are you preparing properly? 

On The Everything Page you'll find everything you need to build visibility, credibility and influence through engaging presentations that move your participants into action: freebies, low-cost products and courses, and 1:1 coaching!

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