Dec 10, 2009

How to cut short your presentation without losing its effectiveness?

Photo Credit: Michelle Meiklejohn

You are the 3rd speaker at a seminar and you are supposed to speak for 45 minutes. Due to the late start of the event you have been asked to cut short the presentation to 25 minutes, what will you do? How do you get across the main message of your presentation the way you had intended?

This is a situation you can never prepare for in advance. But knowing how to react will help you deliver the message with same effectiveness.

Here is what you should do when faced with such a situation.

1. Do not panic: This is the first thing you should NOT do. Just because your time has been cut short does not mean your presentation is ruined. Tell yourself you will present the relevant content within the given time.

2. Do no get defensive: Do not get defensive and tell your audience that you will not be able to present properly because you have been denied the amount of time you were earlier promised. Does not help. Instead of feeling bad, start thinking and rearrange your stuff to fit in 25 minutes.

3. Skip some slides: This is the most important point. Just because you had made 25 slides for your 45 minute presentation, does not mean that you need to run through all of them within 25 minutes. You cannot increase your speed and cover everything in 25 minutes. Accept that it is not possible.

You have to skip a few slides, slides which explain a point or contain a case study or contain extra / peripheral matter. There are slides which have your central argument and many slides supporting it with examples. In such a case, after you present your argument, you can always give only 1 example and skip the others.

You might also like to cut short some basic introductory matter at the start. All I am saying is, you know what is more important and what is not. Skip the peripheral matter and get to the core right from the word go.

If you increase your pace and try presenting a 45 minute matter in 25 minutes, all you will do is reduce audience understanding and subsequently loose their attention. Adjust to the reality and present with confidence.

If you have faced such a situation before I would like to hear from you. How did you face the situation?

Update: Read about a new approach (User Controlled Presentations) to PPT making which can help you fit any presentation within time. Click to read here.


  1. Hi Vivek

    I agree with most of your tips. But I think you can prepare for these situations in advance. It's a regular occurrence at conferences, so it's something that it's useful to be prepared for.

    Prepare your presentation using a modular structure and then you can edit by cutting modules.


  2. Coming to think of it, I agree that such situations are predictable. But you will never know how much time will be reduced from your presentation.

    While preparing a presentation we should know what's crucial and what can be sacrificed. If we break up our presentation into modules then some modules can be cut short to fit in time.