February 26, 2012

Three Mistakes Seminar Speakers Make

Promod Sharmaby Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

You've prepared a presentation. You've been given 60 minutes. You've got valuable content and winning anecdotes. You don't want to leave anything out.

You practice and manage to squeeze in everything ... if you talk a little faster.

This doesn't make sense
  • you probably won't get your full allotted time
  • the more content, the less preparation
  • the audience becomes passive

The Allotted Time

Schedules are unpredictable. Your starting time may be delayed. You may still be expected to finish at the originally-planned time. Unfair? If there are other speakers, the whole schedule may be messed up because an earlier speaker get gabbing.

You can help the organizers by shortening your portion. If you're prepared, you'll know what you can take out. The result may even improve. You'll be a hero to the organizers. That can't hurt you. You'll also be a hero to the audience since they fear that you'll add to the delays.

Even if you get your full allotment of time, you can easily still run out. You might talk more slowly than you planned or take detours.

Prepare by reducing your content in advance.

More Content, Less Preparation

A longer presentation is easy to prepare. Just keep piling in content. The skill is in the pruning.

As you add more, you dilute your impact. You're placing a burden on the audience to absorb more material. You're making your key points more difficult to remember --- and maybe tough to identify.

Think about yourself. You're making your delivery more difficult since there's more to deliver. You won't be able to practice as much.

Prepare by reducing your content in advance.

Audience Burnout

An audience that's exhausted, becomes more passive. You might not notice the lifeless eyes or their yawns. You may think they're attentive when they're mentally exhausted.

Engage them. Get them to participate. Invite questions. All that takes time away from your speaking.

Prepare by reducing your content in advance.


Audiences forget most of what you tell them, no matter how brilliant. If you're not convinced, think back to the second last speech or presentation you attended. How much can you remember?


Promod Sharma spoke at Podcamp Toronto earlier today about Building Trust With Podcasting. Any connection between this post and that event may be coincidental. You’ll a copy of the presentation and other resources here.

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