Less is more! Be brief in an oral presentation

Abraham Lincoln used only 272 words when he wrote the Gettysburg Address. It remains not only one of America’s most famous presentations and it took him just two minutes to deliver such big ideas in a small amount of time. 

Several studies reveal that our attention span is gradually shrinking to less than 20minutes. If you want to get audience attention, you need to be brief. Our minds need fewer words to process and retain  information.

McCormack’s  said:

“If I say 150 words a minute, and you can hear 750 words a minute, the less I say, the more you hear. The more you say, the less they’re going to hear.

The challenge with speech presentation isn’t making it longer. It is making it shorter and still creating the desired impact.

There are some reasons why presenters find it difficult to speak briefly and concisely.

Here are some of them:

  1. Inadequate preparation and planning
  2. Poor content mastery 
  3. Inability to paraphrase
  4. Poor judgment of audience assimilation capability.
  5. Insensitive to time
  6. Desire to cover more than expected.

If you are a presenter who doesn’t know how to speak on point, this article is for you. I will share with you some tips on how to make your presentation brief and impactful.

Proper planning

Do you know that one  minute of planning saves 10 minutes of execution? Proper planning eliminates fuzziness, rambling and repetitions in your presentation.

In planning, you need to crystallize all your ideas into one or two big ideas. To do this, you need to have a mastery of your content.

Master your content

There is no way you can be effective in summarizing content if you haven’t mastered the content yourself.

 A simple way to know if you’ve mastered your content is to try explaining it to someone in less than a minute . To do this, you need to focus on the central idea.      

Focus on the central idea

Every other information in your presentation is an extension of the central idea.  The central idea is the key information you wish to pass across to your audience.

 If you can answer the question: What single idea do I want my learners to grasp from all this information? Then you’ve settled on the big idea. If you can’t answer that question, it is better to revisit your content and master it properly.

Resist the tendency of over explaining. 

People always want the shortest road to get to Jerusalem. Delivering mountains of facts and examples confuses your audience. Trim unnecessary details.

You can resist the temptation of over-explaining by speaking concisely.

Speak concisely

Make your sentences easy to understand. Speak as though you were as having a conversation with a friend.  Do not stress on something that is simple to understand. Try to paraphrase long sentences.

Learn how to paraphrase

Every day you paraphrase lengthy information to our friends, co-workers and family members in some way.

At times, you might take 3-5 minutes to narrate a complete story or movie to a friend. If you can do this effectively in a short time without distorting the original idea, then you can do same with an oral presentation.

In paraphrasing, you need to trim the fats by using the right supporting material.

Use the right supporting material.

Supporting materials include examples, illustrations, facts and statistics. Your choice of supporting material determines how lengthy your presentation will be. There are instances where a single piece of evidence or reference is enough to drive a point home.

Using more than two supporting materials to explain a single idea is a waste of time. Avoid citing too many examples when one example clarifies the whole point.    

Decide if you are going to use an illustration, an example or a video to clarify your point. If a simple illustration can do, use it.

Check your time. 

Finally, a presenter without a watch is not a serious presenter. Your eyes needs to be constantly fixed on the timer. It helps you drive a point home faster and not to interject irrelevant or side information.


If you found this article helpful, share with us other strategies on how to speak briefly.

As you strive to make your presentations brief, always remember this Golden rule: speaking less is saying more.

As you strive to make your presentations brief, always remember this Golden rule: speaking less is saying more.

Author: Jini, is a prolific author and founder of Teachersletters Publishing Services. As an award winning teacher with a Cambridge International School in Doaula, he has 13+ years of teaching experience in writing, student-centered learning, bible teachers training and educational leadership. He is consider as one of the best keynote speakers of his time.

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