Too many people talk too long when they get the chance to present. Anyone can stand up and ramble on forever, boring their audience and never reaching a clear conclusion. You may think you’re interesting and that you’ve covered a lot of territory, but your listener is asking, “So what’s in it for me?”
It takes a lot of preparation to make your points short and sweet but the rewards will be worth it. People will remember what you say. People will understand your ideas. People will respond to your call to action.
Why is brevity so critically important? First of all, Steve Jobs, who left nothing to chance, is quoted in the book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs as saying, “after 10 minutes you’re going to lose your listeners’ attention.” According to the master presenter, people simply can’t concentrate for longer than that so you’ve got to either keep it short or completely change the focus and the tone of your presentation every few minutes.
And how much time do you have to make a great first impression? Recent research says you’ve only got the blink of an eye to get people on your side. Anecdotal evidence has long held that you’ve got 5-7 seconds to win people over. But even if that’s true, talking about everything under the sun for 20 minutes probably won’t change anyone’s mind.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had 6 hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first 4 hours sharpening the axe.”
I’m telling you this because many demo days give an entrepreneur only 3 minutes to pitch their product or service. Sometimes a founder or CEO will get 5 or 7 minutes to stand out in front of a group investors who will see a bunch of start-ups in a single, hectic session. So how will you win the day?
Be clear. Be concise. Be compelling. First, take the time to sharpen your message and hone your language. Use powerful images and tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an ending with a call to action. Remember too that a great, short speech with impact takes a lot of time to write, re-write and rehearse until you can present it to investors, partners or prospects with confidence.
The bottom line is this: If you don’t hook your audience right from the start and then tell your story before your audience loses their concentration, you’ll be facing the law of diminishing returns after you hit the 10 minute mark.