This blog was first published around 3 years ago, when there were very few online presentations, back in the heady days when ‘zoom’ was merely onomatopoeia used in children’s comics along with ‘wham’ and ‘pow’. If anything, as we hop from one screen of hopeful faces to another, the points raised are even more pertinent to today’s virtual audiences, so I thought it was worth another airing.
What is the biggest mistake made when public speaking? When I pose this question to my presentation skills delegates, their suggestions are many and varied; usually along the lines of forgetting what you need to say next or overcomplicated slides. 
However, one of the most popular gripes from audiences who haven’t enjoyed a presentation is this …..
It over-ran!  
Calamity! May plague and pestilence strike the presenter who doesn’t keep to time. Please remember that however riveting your topic and however well you deliver it, most folk are shoe-horning you into their very busy day. They have somewhere else to be after your presentation, even if it is only an appointment with the ironing board. Therefore one of the hardest things for an audience to forgive is when the presentation time has finished – but the speaker clearly hasn’t.
Even though it was many years ago, I can still remember a networking event where the young speaker (a lawyer) was talking about the legal aspects of employing part-time staff. He had rather ill-advisedly handed out hard-copies of his slide set, so we all knew he had twelve slides to talk through. Most of the audience, including me, were parked in timed spaces in a nearby public car park. Imagine our despair, when at minute 37 of his promised 40-minute speech, he was still only on slide three! Despite much sighing, shuffling of feet and ostentatious watch checking from his audience, he grimly ploughed on … well over his allotted time schedule. Nowadays a virtual audience would simply ‘Zoom out’ muttering something about an Amazon delivery.
It always reminds me of Dorothy Sarnoff’s** wonderful quote, “Make sure you have stopped speaking before your audience has stopped listening”
The great orators knew this; they kept their speeches short and pithy which made them all the more memorable. Way back from when Caesar was asking: “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears,” through to Winston Churchill’s “Fight them on the Beaches” up to the more modern-day “Yes We Can,” from Barack Obama, the skill has always been in tightening up your oratory, leaving only the essential message to resonate.
So I shall leave you with a little food for thought for when you are preparing your next presentation, online or in-person: 

  • Pythagoras’ Theorem – 24 words
  • The Lord’s Prayer – 66 words
  • Archimedes’ Principle – 67 words
  • Ten Commandments – 179 words
  • Gettysberg Address – 286 words
  • European Union rules on the sale of cabbages – 26,253 words

Keep It Short n’ Simple …  It pays to KISS!