Keep It Short
A few years ago, the writer A. J. Jacobs wrote a series of articles for LinkedIn demonstrating his omniverous ambition to write on just about anything, anywhere, anytime. He has, in the past, committed himself to a variety “[Blank] for a Year” confessionals, for which he’s become rather well-known.
In a LinkedIn article titled “The Six Most Important Business Lessons from All of History” (his humour on display from the outset), Jacobs begins by briefly describing the 18 months he spend reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica (the article was published in 2013, a simpler, less Wikipedian time). From the project Jacobs deduced a half dozen time-tested business practices.
Engage in Strategic Chutzpah (in other words: be bold!); Take Ideas from Far Outside Your Field; Keep Presentations Short; Embrace Rejection; Being First is Overrated; and Adapt or Die.
These six lessons remain generally true and are repeated in one form or another in the halls of innovation hubs the world over.
But my interest is in lesson #3: Keep Presentations Short. Jacobs cites the Gettysburg Address (2 minutes in length) versus another speech that was in fact the main attraction that day and which ran two-hours in length, only to become a historical footnote.
Brevity is a virtue. If you can employ it without loosing clarity, it is a gift to presenter and audience alike. So choose your words carefully, parse your message down to what is most essential, most provocative, the most engaging, and shed the excess. This is true for tenured CEOs tasked with delivering annual org-wide roundups as much as it is for undergrads with big ideas seeking a first round of funding from VCs.
Think of your presentation like a boxing match. Win it in as few expert punches as possible.