Friday, May 15, 2009

Can you condense your presentation into six words?

Six words?!? Am I joking? No.

I was intrigued by a recent contest being run by SpeakerNetNews (BTW, if you are in the speaking business and aren’t subscribing to this weekly e-mail newsletter, you are missing out big time – go to and subscribe right now). They were inspired by a web site that collects six word stories and asked subscribers to submit a six word presentation. That’s right, only six words!

I took this as a challenge. If I was really clear on what my message was, I should be able to boil it down to six words. It took a few tries, but I condensed my presentation down to “Explain persuasive visuals, don’t read slides.” Let’s look at each word or phrase and what it means. First is the word “explain”. This means that what you say will add to what is shown visually. Next is “persuasive visuals”, which is a visual that has a headline, a visual in context, and focuses the audience on the key point that will be explained (tie back to the “explain” word). The last phrase, “don’t read slides”, is advising presenters to avoid the single most annoying thing that they can do, according to the audiences I have surveyed.

I thought I did quite well, and it seems like the judges agreed. My entry was one of the entries chosen to be voted on by subscribers at If you are a subscriber, old or new, go and vote for your favourite in the different categories that they have. The results get announced after voting closes on May 25th.

How does this apply to your presentations? I think this is a great exercise. How clear are you on the purpose of your presentation? Could you boil it down to six words? If not, you may need to spend some time focusing on the real message you want to deliver. Clarity of purpose is probably the single thing you can do to improve your presentation the most. Once you are clear, you can direct every word or visual towards that purpose. Without clarity, you don’t exactly know where you are going and neither does your audience.

Try condensing your presentation down to six words and see how it forces you to clarify the purpose of your presentation.


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