Some of you are reading this article because you hope I made a mistake and the correct title should be 60 is the new 20. Although I applaud your effort to cling to your youth, unfortunately I’m not going to reveal an anti-aging potion to magically take 40 years off your life. However, I invite you to stick around if you’re remotely interested in learning about the looming extinction of the 60 minute keynote.
Over the last decade, technology has crept into every nook and cranny of our lives. At the push of a button we can access unimaginable amounts of data, photos and videos that we have the power to start and stop on demand. On one hand, this type of control is empowering. On the other hand it dramatically reduces our tolerance for information that is important but boring. Have you ever listened to a horrible speaker and wished you could just push a button to make him stop?
Today’s audiences are notorious for high expectations and short attention spans. If you are a speaker, this means you better be good and you better be fast! If you don’t believe me, just ask the millions of ardent TED viewers around the world.
A mature audience can maintain intense focus for approximately 20 minutes before they start reaching for their gadgets. It’s your responsibility to balance the importance of your message against the competing demands for your audience’s time. I’m not suggesting we get rid of the 60 minute keynote slot but I am encouraging you to strategically plan segments where you give the audience the wheel and let them drive the presentation. Remember, you can talk for days but you only have their undivided attention for 20 minutes.
Late last week, I shared this time crunch dilemma with a friend, who’s a really smart engineer. He couldn’t figure out why I was so perplexed. He casually said, “Dez, just tell your clients to cut 60% of their content— problem solved.” After I picked myself up off the floor from laughing at his ignorance, I realized I was the idiot because other people were probably thinking the exact same thing. The reality is, preparing and delivering a 20 minute speech is far more difficult than doing the same for a 60 minute speech. Shortening your speech without sacrificing effectiveness is no easy task. Here’s a proven way to shorten your speech when it’s crunch time:
Draw a vertical line down the center of a piece of paper. On the left side, write “nice to know” and on the right side write “need to know.” Review your main and supporting points to decide which are need to know and which are nice to know. Prepare and deliver only the need to know points.
We live in a world where everyone is pressed for time. Be brief. Be good. Be gone!