Deliver Business Presentations That Save Time

When a colleague makes a poor presentation, and you multiply that by the number of people in the room and the volume of presentations delivered every day in your organisation; an enormous amount of time is wasted. We can’t afford to lose precious hours, so let’s look at why some presentations squander so much time and how to to create presentations that save time, for both the speaker and their listeners.

Subject matter experts are often surprised to hear that it’s important to shape their presentation to suit their audience. They don’t expect that their presentations can be unclear to their listeners, and are astonished when their presentations don’t achieve their goals. Subject matter experts assume that their knowledge will get them through any presentation. Little do they realise that having knowledge and getting their knowledge across to their audiences are two different creatures and require additional skills and tools. They lack the skills and tools to craft a presentation that speaks to their audience. 

But now for some good news, it’s easy to create effective presentations while saving both presenters and their audience some precious time. Let’s start at the beginning.


What’s your objective, what does your audience expect?
Decide on your objective

The shorter the presentation, the fewer objectives you should have. Ask yourself, “By the end of my presentation, I want my audience to…?” And as you answer the question, think about what you want. Do you want the audience to leave with some knowledge, or to change their mind about a previous decision? Do you want them to agree to an idea, or act with urgency? 

Once you’ve decided on your objective, every element of your presentation should be geared towards achieving your objectives. And when your whole presentation is created to achieve an objective, there’s less risk of getting sidetracked while presenting or answering questions.


Understand the expectations of your audience

If you can meet your audience’s expectations during a presentation, they will leave thinking that it’s time well spent. Spare a thought for what your audience expects. Your audience will ask themselves, 

“Why am I listening to you for thirty minutes?”

“How does this benefit me?”

What your audience expects from you might be different from what you’re planning to deliver. When there is a mismatch between your expectations and the expectations of your audience, your audience will ask themselves, “Why am I here?” 

With presentations, there is no ‘one size fits all’. The same message needs to be told in a different way to appeal to different people. Children are the masters of this strategy. Notice how they are different when they are with their mother and with their father. Watch carefully and you’ll see how children, in a toy store, modify their ‘pitch’ to appeal to the mother’s need for education or their father’s need for fun.

The same presentation, delivered to different audiences, should look, sound, and feel different. Every group has particular needs and they’ll have different questions and expectations. Your task is to meet those needs, not just to put across content. You have to capture their attention, be relevant, and inspire action.

For example, imagine having to present an HR policy to C-suites, middle managers and frontline staff. The CEOs and CFOs will want to know about business implications, middle managers will be concerned with compliance, while the frontline staff will be anxious about how your ideas will affect their autonomy. Each audience will want to go away feeling that you understand them, and the only way to do that is by first understanding your audience’s expectations. With this, everyone will feel that the time they spent listening to your new HR policy was worth it.


Prepare Your Text

Now that you understand your audience and you’ve decided on your presentation objectives, it’s time to structure your text so that people remember what you’re about to present. How beneficial would it be if people could share your main talking points with their colleagues, thus allowing your ideas to spread (on their own) within the organisation? To prepare a memorable presentation, let’s look at how people remember, and how you can apply those principles to make your audience remember your key messages:

Memory Principle 1: Captivating Beginnings

Memory Principle 2: Repeated Ideas

Memory Principle 3: Connections to the Familiar

Memory Principle 4: People Remember the Outstanding

Memory Principle 5: Noteworthy Endings

Here’s how you can apply the five memory principles:

Applying Memory Principle 1: Captivating Beginnings

People remember the start and the end. This is why good movies and speeches grab our attention in the first few minutes. Here’s the opening crawl at the start of the first-ever Star Wars movie released in 1997:

It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armoured space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy….


The scene then cuts to a fleeing starship, they are being chased by a star destroyer pummelling them with turbolasers. Decades ago, I remember wondering, “What will happen to Princess Leia?” as her Corellian Corvette rocks violently from every hit while her rebel soldiers position themselves at the corridor; waiting to be boarded by imperial shock troopers.

Now, I have no choice. The captivating beginning has hooked me into the story and I am compelled by some hidden force from deep within me to patiently wait for the story to unfold.

Applying Memory Principle 2: Repeated Ideas

People remember ideas that are repeated. Advertisers often quote Dr Jeffrey Lant’s Rule of Seven, which says that to enter the buyer’s consciousness, you have to contact the prospect at least seven times in 18 months. And according to Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve, learners will forget on average 90% of material within a month unless the learning materials are reinforced. Repetition has long been known to sear a memory into the mind and it’s behind our decision to incorporate post-training reinforcement into all of our training programmes. 

The more you repeat an idea during a business presentation, the more weight you give the idea and the more memorable it becomes. 

Applying Memory Principle 3: Connections to the Familiar

People remember ideas that are connected to their own lives. So, connect what you say to your audience’s experiences. Give relevant examples. Speaking to a CEO who loves fishing? Reel him into your story, lure his attention with a surprising fact, then let him wait with bated breath for an answer. Place a bait so that he’ll ask questions, then tackle his concerns and let him leave with a net full of actionable to-dos and a new school of thought. We’re being a little silly here, but connecting your presentation to what your audience is familiar with is a powerful strategy that helps them to recall what you’re sharing. For example, if you’re trying to convince your fish-crazed CEO to adopt a new branding strategy:

“Fishing versus hunting, what’s the best way to get new customers? Hunting means that we’re targeting one customer at a time, and we’re spending significant time and money to look for, and get one customer to buy. But what if there was an easier way to attract customers? Through a rebranding exercise, we’re better able to attract customers who are ready to buy from us. On my last fishing trip, the trout weren’t biting, so before the end of the day, I switched out the bait and we caught a few. The only change was the bait. For our organisation, branding is the bait that will attract new clients to us.”

Applying Memory Principle 4: People Remember the Outstanding

Many people remember what they were doing when 9-11 happened. People will also remember events like graduations, weddings and birthdays (especially those with big round numbers!), or the fire in the office pantry – because they stand out from the routine of day-to-day living. Your task is to create outstanding instances in your presentations that people will remember.

Applying Memory Principle 5: Noteworthy Endings

People remember endings. People also remember repeated ideas (memory principle 2). Use this principle at the close, for one last chance to carve your key points into your audience’s mind. Use your last words to ask your audience to do something. Pause after the request for action. Thank your audience. Pause again. Stop. Your audience has now repeatedly heard the key items of your presentation and you’ve made it memorable; therefore saving you time from repeating yourself in the days and months later, and people can share your main talking points with their colleagues, thus allowing your ideas to spread (on its own) within the organisation.


To Sum It All Up

You save your audience’s time when:

  1. You have a clear objective for your presentation, because you’ll focus your time on fulfilling your objective and you’re less likely to go on a tangent. 
  2. You understand your audience’s expectations. Your audience will then feel that your presentation is relevant to them and not a waste of their time. 
  3. You apply the five memory principles:

Memory Principle 1: Captivating Beginnings

Memory Principle 2: Repeated Ideas

Memory Principle 3: Connections to the Familiar

Memory Principle 4: People Remember the Outstanding

Memory Principle 5: Noteworthy Endings

Your message will then be remembered and will continue to create an impact after your presentation, therefore ensuring that your presentation wasn’t a waste of your time.


Build your people’s confidence and presentation fundamentals with People Potential’s business presentation programmes. Learn more here.