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We Needed More Time: Trying to Cram Too Much Material into a Presentation


My daughter recently finished the first draft of her first novel.  With the words of Earnest Hemingway echoing in her head (“The first draft of anything is shit.”) she set out to rewrite her book into a second draft.

We were talking about her process and how painful it is to have to throw out pages of hard-fought writing.  She called it “Killing My Darlings and Disposing the Bodies” in a recent blog post.

I feel the same way with presentations.   Sometimes I’ve got great material that I just can’t use because I don’t have enough time to present everything I know.

But just like my daughter working toward a stronger manuscript, in our presentations, sometimes we need to kill our darlings to make the presentation have a lasting impact.


The Presentation Was Good, But We Needed More Time

I confess, I’ve seen the statement “It was a good presentation but we needed more time” on my feedback forms.  What they really mean is that I tried to cover too much material for the time allotted.

I battle with two demons in this regard…

I want to make sure I’m giving the audience valuable information.

I know a lot about this material and it’s hard to pick and choose what to keep and what to get rid of.

Here are suggestions to deal with these challenges… and yes, I’m trying to practice what I preach but I haven’t fully mastered these yet!


I Want to Give My Audience Valuable Information

It is an awesome thing to want to give the audience lots of value.  It means you’re focused on serving your audience.  I love that.  Serving your audience is the noblest of callings for any presenter.

But when you overwhelm the audience with too much information, you’re not doing them or yourself any favors.

They won’t adopt a new behavior, buy your product or take the next step if you overwhelm them with information.

What to do instead?


How to Give Your Audience More Valuable Information without Going into Information Overload


Have a Way to Give Your Audience More Information After Your Presentation Is Over


White Paper

Take all of what you wish you could say in the presentation and turn it into a white paper.   Offer to send the white paper to your audience after the presentation if they provide you with an email address.



Point the audience to a website or blog where they can find more information or enter into a dialog with you and others interested in the subject.


Answer Questions Socially

Stick around after the presentation to answer questions.  Offer to answer more questions via Facebook.  Assign a hashtag and respond on Twitter and Google+.


Give the audience ways to be in contact and get more information from you.  Most people won’t do it, but you know those who do are really interested in what you have to say.


It’s Hard to Choose What to Keep and Which Darlings to Kill


You Know – But You Just Don’t Want To

Admit it.  Sometimes it’s not hard.  Sometimes you know you should kill a particular segment.  You just don’t want to.

Kill it anyway.

Remember, you’re there to serve your audience.  If it’s better for them in the long run, get rid of the unnecessary segment – even if it is one of your favorite bits.


Top 3

List all the things you wish you could say… then ask yourself what are your top three.  If you had to keep you presentation to just three points or your favorite TV show would be canceled, what would your three points be.

By prioritizing your points, you’ll be able to better manage what material you’ll include and what you will need to leave out because of timing.


Ask Someone Else

If you’re still having problems deciding which darlings to kill, ask someone else for their opinion.  They didn’t create the darlings.  They don’t have the attachment you do.  Getting another opinion from a coach, a colleague, or a future audience member can be just the thing you need to help you make the hard call.


What Not to Kill

There is a temptation to “fluff” material like stories, analogies and supporting material because they’re not “content.”  Resist that temptation.

We live in a world of short attention spans and constant entertainment.  Our audiences want and expect interesting material.

But more than just keeping the audience engaged, stories, analogies and supporting material make the information understandable and memorable.  You want your audience to understand.  You want the audience to remember.  Keep your stories, analogies and supporting material.


What Else?

What else do you do to help discipline yourself to not overload your audience with information?

Share your advice with us in the comments below!