We’ve all been there, right? You have 20 minutes to deliver a presentation, but there were delays getting started and some unplanned Q&A and now you’ve only got two minutes left and you still have ten PowerPoint slides that you need to get through before you finish. What do you do?
Option 1 – Carry on Regardless
With this approach, you simply ignore the time constraint, and keep on going, taking as long as you need to get through all your material. The risk to this approach is that you may well upset everybody in the room causing them to miss their speaking timeslot, delay their pickup from the crèche, or maybe even miss the last train home. Not a great way to win friends and influence people…
Option 2 – The Fast Forward
This approach sees you rapidly click through your remaining slides, saying “that’s ok, that’s ok, that’s ok” until you get to a slide that you really want to speak about – which you do hurriedly – before clicking on again quickly till you collapse over the finishing line. There are a few negatives to this approach – including the fact that your audience is left wondering why you had so many seemingly unimportant slides in your presentation – and also wondering how many unimportant slides you forced them to sit through.
Neither of the two options above are great, and they share the negative side effect whereby you are telling your audience that you have poor planning skills and were not able to judge the right level of content for the time available. This is not a great impression, especially if you are seeking to build their confidence in you as someone who can be relied upon to deliver on time.
And next, we have my preferred option…
Option 3 – The Graceful Ending
With this option, the audience never becomes aware that you are running out of time, instead, they just see you click on your final couple of slides where you summarise the presentation and invite dialogue. They marvel at your professionalism and ability to finish on time, especially if others force you to start late. They will also subconsciously award you some Brownie points for helping them to finish work on time – you’ll have made a great impression.
How can you achieve this seemingly impossible feat? All it takes is a little planning, and some knowledge of MS PowerPoint features.
The planning required is that you need to have a suitable closing slide or two that you can use to summarise the key messages of the presentation and also you need to know what is the slide number of that closing slide. For my upcoming example, let’s assume it is slide 24.
When you are presenting a PowerPoint slideshow, the normal way to move to the next slide is to click the right arrow, which moves you on through the slides one at a time. However, you can also jump around between slides another way – you can type in the slide number you wish to jump to and then press the Enter/Return key. Magically, your presentation has now jumped past the next slides and is now displaying the slide number you wanted on screen. So if my presentation is taking too long and I realise I need to jump to the end prematurely, my ‘graceful ending plan kicks into action.
Instead of admitting anything to my audience – I simply type in the slide number (24, in my example), press Enter, and we are looking at my closing slide. The narrative is important – you explain any apparent gap in the presentation flow by saying something like – “there is a lot more detail that I could go into with you, and am happy to do so if anyone would like to follow up, but in the interest of time I thought it would be better to summarise the key messages now before opening up to the floor for questions”… and they show my closing slide or two, finish on time, and bask in the standing ovation that will surely follow…
And if you think that people are likely to notice if you jump past some detail – no they won’t. I have used this technique numerous times and as long as your summary slides do an adequate job of covering the overall topic, nobody will ever know.
Simply by knowing this PowerPoint trick, and with a small amount of planning, you will never overrun a presentation time slot again.
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