How to Save Time and Cut the Crap out of Your Next Presentation

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One of the questions I would ask my TEDxClapham speakers is ‘how much time do you need to get your message across?’

More often than not the reply would be ‘what’s the maximum amount of time I can have?

It's a telling response...

Is it that their ego is getting the better of them? Perhaps they’re of the belief that more stage time is more of an opportunity to be remembered.

Are they unable to communicate their message simply? If this is the case, they don’t understand their subject matter well enough, (yet).

Or is it because they ramble? Often down to a lack of confidence - the fear of the talk not being good enough can often result in over-explaining. 

One of the things that TED and TEDx have pioneered is the short form keynote. The maximum talk length is 18 minutes, and while the majority of budding thought leaders want to take as much time as possible, the truth is, some of the most impactful speeches are delivered in single digits.

I wonder how many of you reading this have ever had the feedback 'I wish your presentation could have been longer?' It reminds me of a wonderful quote I once stumbled across:

"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."*

Communicating with simplicity and conciseness is a real challenge. But your ability to do so is exactly why you’re being invited to speak in the first place. 

When you’re able to deliver something that is short, relevant and impactful you will become a conference curator’s dream. We are always on the lookout for a variety of different talk lengths to suit a lineup. Not only that, it gives your talk way more chance of it being watched until the very end when the recording ends up online.

Some of the most impactful talks are short. Here are 4 of my favourites, each with an idea on how you can gift your audience back some time whilst increasing the impact that your talk goes on to have.

1. Clint Smith - Talk length: 4:09

Takeaway: You don’t need a collection of stories to make a talk, one good story is enough.

2. Cameron Russell - Talk length: 9:21

Takeaway: You don’t need to build up to the point you’re trying to make, just tell it as it is.

3. Roy Beck - Talk length: 6:07

Takeaway: Props and demonstrations can simplify the complex and cut the explanation.

4. Rita Pierson - Talk length: 7:34

Takeaway: your passion will always get you there quicker than your words.


The length of your keynote can be a point of differentiation. Anyone can speak for 18 minutes, but there are some significant advantages to being one of the few who can do it as well in under 10. 

*I’d love to know who said it first, but the first page of Google attributes it to Cicero, Churchill, Twain et al. 

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