4 Proven Formats for Short Presentations

Short TalkWith the pressure to make business meetings and retreats shorter, it is crucial for meeting planners to ensure that content is presented in a powerful format that captures attention and engages participants. All too often, when timeframes shrink, meetings and conferences become wall-to-wall presentation with limited participant interaction.

When confronted with a short timeframe, cover content that doesn't not require interaction through a self-study module, e-learning program, slide presentation, or content delivered to participants online (e.g. Second Life, Tele-Presence) or through an app.

During the face-to-face session, divide your presentation, think sound bites. Divide longer presentations into short segments. Use an upbeat format to review key information and then involve participants in interactive exercises and discussions. Here is an example.


Here are 4 highly effective short presentation formats: 

  1. Pecha Kucha
    This Japanese phrase meaning "chatter" follows a specific format. It's a 6-minute and 40-second presentation with 20 slides that each change every 20 seconds. It's an ideal format for presenting content in a bite size sound bite and for reviewing and re-capping content. To be effective it is best to use slides with vivid images and minimal text.

  1. Ignite
    Ignite talks last for 5 minutes and consist of 20 slides displayed for 15 seconds each. This format is particularly effective for technically complex content.
  2. TEDx Talks
    TEDx Talks are engaging presentations that are a maximum of 18 minutes. The reason for this design is that audiences tend to lose focus if they have to sit and listen in passive mode for longer than that.

    Effective TEDx Talks begin with a strong example or vivid image to capture the attention of the audience. The main point is highlighted upfront and then a series of points with convincing evidence or data are presented. TEDx Talks end with a powerful conclusion that conveys how the information presented is directly relevant to the audience.
  3. Table Topics
    Toastmasters uses Table Topics, 1 - 2 minute impromptu talks, to give members a chance to become comfortable thinking on their feet. They are an ideal format for re-capping information, helping breakout groups keep things moving when they report back with their findings and gathering feedback from participants. The key to success is to provide an outline for groups to follow. Here is an impromptu format that gathered feedback to help market Montreal as a destination from attendees after the PCMAEC conference in 2010. 

Whatever format you select, the key is to avoid one presentation after another for stretches of longer than 20 minutes. Instead, break things up. Give participants an opportunity to pause and reflect, discuss the content with a partner or do a group exercise related to the content.

Also consult Participant Engagement vs. Instant Results17 Tips for Designing Shorter Meetings Without Short-Changing Attendees, 12 Strategies to Engage Conference and Meeting Participants, Business Meetings 411: Building Better Breakouts, Misunderstanding What Is Great About TED and Table Talk: Peer to Peer Learning at its Best

Photo Credit: Executive Oasis International

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