How to finish your presentation dead on time and look uber professional.


After an hour and a half of a 30 minute presentation the audience were thankful that Dennis had finally finished

After an hour and a half of a 30 minute presentation the audience were thankful that Dennis had finally finished

Sometimes it’s ok to run over when you’re presenting but most times it isn’t. I have spoken on countless panel events where I was one of 3 or 4 speakers and the cumulative effect of speaker-over run was a real headache for the organisers.

Finishing on time makes you look in control, like you’ve actually prepared for it and ultimately very professional. The alternative is over-run or racing through the last screens at breakneck speed to finish on time. Tres pathetique!

So is there a simple and easy to use technique to guarantee finishing your presentation on time every time? You bet your ass there is: Flex Screens.

What is a Flex screen?

It is a screen which can be covered in 5 seconds or 5 minutes and the audience will never know any different.

What would a Flex screen have on it?

Typically it would be a picture or a graph or some other visual device. It would NOT be lots of bullet points or any other sequenced list of information that you would need to work through.

Where would you place then in the pack?

Towards the end of the presentation. On an hours presentation I would have two: one about half way through so I could get back on track if I was already running long or short and then one about 10 or 15 minutes from the end.

How would you use it?

You must choose something that can be interpreted in two ways. Here’s an example. Imagine I am presenting about the future of business development in the law (which I do by the way) and I have reached the last 10 to 15 minutes of the presentation when up comes a screen with two pictures on: one is of a man fishing from a boat and the other is a huge automated trawler: –

  1. Short of time: “so before I move to the last part of my presentation let me just recap what I have been talking about for the last 50 minutes. On the left we have how law firms have traditionally tackled BD and on the right we see how the new law companies are dealing with the challenge. Is it time to send out for some new and used trawler catalogues I wonder? Well let’s move on and find out.”
  2. Long on time: “So let me recap [I then explain why the fisherman is like the traditional law firm and the trawler is like the new breed – I then ask for comments”.

I can make the difference in these two about 10 minutes!

What other examples can you use?

For a start you can have some audience participation. If it’s a small group go round the room and see what has resonated so far with each person. For larger groups you can pose a question and ask for an answer or invite somebody up to partake in a demonstration or Q&A session with you.

You can display a graph or chart and either summarise what it tells you or explain the detail behind it.

You can have a list which is slowly and automatically displayed behind you whilst you speak and then refer to the them as examples. “These are some of the ways we can engage new clients. My favourites are [and then discuss as many as you need to fill the time]”.

Have an anecdote or case study prepared and memorised and when you have presented a screen full of information say “Let me illustrate what I have just told you with a real-life story” if you need to fill time or leave it out if you don’t.

One last tip for the presenter eager to look more professional.

It’s better to prepare a 45 minute presentation to be delivered in an hour’s slot and fill the extra 15 minutes (which you will probably use up anyway) with some Flex screens than it is to time your presentation to fill an hour and then run over.

Crammed and rushed presentations NEVER make you look good and are rarely engaging for the audience.

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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Posted in Communication, Differentiation, Presentation Skills
2 comments on “How to finish your presentation dead on time and look uber professional.
  1. Joe Reevy says:

    A pro speaker should always finish on time. I remember once speaking at a large conference (about 300 there). They asked me to reduce my 45 minutes to 35 – no problem…then the chap before me overran (I’ll never forgive him) by 10 minutes and the microphone failed. Amazingly, I finished on time and still got 3 new clients from the talk.

    Another time I spoke with someone at the Law Soc conference and we were sharing a 1/2 hour slot. he appeared with 37 (yes, thirty-seven) slides for his 15 minutes. Disaster…now he knows why I had 5!

    • Mike Ames says:

      PowerPoint is your worst enemy when it comes to e able to flex the length of your talk. I always like to turn up and feel confident that I can deliver a speech with or without the use of visual aids. Nice one.

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Mike Ames

Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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