Presentation? Keep It Short, Stupid.
It's the time of the Edinburgh festival again and I'm struck by the lessons that the economics of stand-up comedy has for presentations, for customer attention and for communication in general. After all, there's no tougher audience than one that sits there and implores you to entertain them. Or else!
This article details how an hour on the Fringe used to feature three comedians delivering their best twenty minutes,
But then greed came knocking in the shape of the one-man show. I worked as a critic at the time, and I swear you can count on the fingers of one hand the people in the world who can do a full hour consistently on top form — and three of those are called Robin Williams.
In similar spirit, I recently twittered David Armano into believing that twenty minutes was not too short a slot for his excellent Fuzzy Tail presentation which he'd expected to last somewhat longer. Indeed I argued it would magnify its impact - not because he couldn't fill longer with the ideas, but because the restriction of time would focus both his and his audience's mind. Apparently, it turned out to be so.
I wasn't surprised - my love of brevity spawned a minifesto meme some months back which was filled with dense excellence. Similarly, the sheer quality of the Interesting 2007 experience where speakers were limited to 20 or 3 minutes slots (and Dave managed to present 220 slides in his 20 minutes with the skilled timing and delivery of the best stand-up ) is still being talked and written about around the world.
We can all argue about Robin Williams but the point is a good one. If you can't get your message across in 20 minutes then perhaps you don't really understand it well enough. Or perhaps you're being over-ambitious and should break it into chunks. This is categorically not about dumbing down for an attention-deficient audience, it's about serving and respecting their time and intelligence. It's about truly engaging them. A density of ideas; your command of the subject; and the lack of superfluity and filler all work to this end and best of all, they help you avoid being labelled as boring!