Pretty, young business woman giving a presentation

From Fast Company, Michelle Lam offers terrific suggestions on how to make a short presentation.  Some of her recommendations include:

1. Focus on the problem you’re solving. Speakers often make the mistake of promoting a company or a product, which puts audiences off. Most listeners don’t sign up for a commercial, but they are interested in the problem you encountered, why you thought it was important, and how you solved it in a novel way. Present the puzzle and your solution, and you won’t sound promotional.

2. Speak to the audience, not yourself. “Speaking clubs taught me that public speaking is more than words strung together. It is an opportunity to take my audience on a journey with me,” notes Elaine Lee, a former volunteer city governor for Toastmasters (and, in full disclosure, my cousin). She has a point: Facts may be intriguing, but only stories are truly engaging. The latest data that you tried so hard to remember often doesn’t register—the overall emotional arc of your narrative is what’s really memorable.

3. Start simple, with just a couple words per slide. Outline your talk and build your deck with only the barest amount of text on each slide—pare it down to just one or two words apiece. Then record yourself, and force yourself to listen to your talk. Iterate and repeat. Only then should you spend the time finding the perfectly evocative, just-so phrasing.

4. No notes, no memorizing.Improvising can make it more difficult to get your key message across, but it’s pretty much always better than reciting a speech from your notes. You’ll lose the connection with your audience and come across as rote and inauthentic if you do. When you practice, focus on remembering how you flow from one point to the next, not word to word or sentence to sentence.

5. Humor is great—if it’s natural. You don’t have to be funny. There’s nothing more painful than forced humor. But I’ve found that a shortened format makes it more natural, because you don’t really have time to wind up to a punchline. “People are more likely to laugh during short talks, because you are doing something that is unnatural,” Forrest says. “Everybody knows . . . and appreciates it.”

Read the full story at How I Learned To Give A Powerful Talk In Under 5 Minutes