There is a great deal of debate over how long presentations should be. We have probably heard that “shorter is better” but this isn’t necessarily true. A five-minute presentation could bore you to tears if the speaker isn’t interesting just as a two-hour presentation can leave audiences wanting more if the speaker is engaging. The fact is, there is no one size fits all when it comes to timing your presentation. The speaker just needs to think about their purpose, what information they want to convey, and how they intend to do so.
What is Your Topic?
The first step in determining the appropriate length for your presentation is to think about the topic. What information are you trying to convey and how complex is this information. Complexity needs to be considered because you will probably need a little bit more time to explain these ideas. Once you have your topic, jot down each of your main points, or what information you want the audience to take away from your presentation.
How Many Slides Are You Using?
You will need to decide how many slides you plan on using to explain each point and how many details are in each slide. Text heavy slides are generally not the best for keeping audience attention, but the amount of details will depend on the complexity of the topic. Generally speaking, you should never spend more than 3 minutes on one slide. If it takes longer than that to explain your point you need to consider adding another slide. Presenters should be mindful of how much time they spend on each slide because this will help them to present the material more effectively and efficiently.
Stick to the Most Important Points
It can be easy for presenters to lose track of time when they begin adding too much fluff. Instead, stick to the basics and only give information that is necessary. Anything else will only confuse the audience and make your presentation drag on longer than it needs to.
Factor in the Opening and the Conclusion
If you want to give an effective presentation you are going to need a powerful opening and conclusion. Each of these can take anywhere from 5-7 minutes. Instead of focusing, however, on the length of your opening and conclusion, focus on the content. Your audience will have no problem listening for longer if you are engaging and interesting. Entertained audiences tend to lose track of time. That’s why it’s so important to spend time preparing a strong opening and closing. This is your first and last chance to make an impression on your audience.
Allow Time for Questions
Every presentation needs to allow some time for questions. When you are trying to determine the length of your presentation, build in about 10 extra minutes for Q&A.
The bottom line is this…there is no time limit that is right for everyone. Your focus should be on delivering clear, concise information in a way that engages, interests, and appeals to your audience. If you are staying on track and keeping your audience’s attention, spend as much or as little time as you need to get your point across.