Friday, April 23, 2010

Limit your slides, not just your time, when speaking

I recently helped a high-tech client put on a day-long seminar on a specialized cybersecurity issue, and the day was to end with a mega-panel of 10 software and hardware vendors--the universe of vendors providing the security solutions we'd spend the day discussing.  I normally turn down invitations to speak on panels of more than 3 people, myself--but in this case, we decided each panelist would be limited to one slide and five minutes. Our goal was to leave as much time for questions as for speakers, and we achieved that goal.

Those panelists balked, squawked, argued and tried to sneak in long videos or animations in their one slide to incorporate more content (we turned those submissions back and said "stick to the rules").   But here's what happened: No matter how much content they got onto their slides, all of them came in under the five-minute limit, but had plenty to say about their products.  In addition, because we limited slide space, what went on the slides--for the most part--were the top-line thoughts, not all the details, so no speaker spent the time reading his or her slides.  If you're looking to focus a panel of speakers--or yourself when speaking--consider making your slide limit shorter than your time limit to force a similar editing process.

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