Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Monday, August 13, 2007

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!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post John. But isn't it one of your longest?

5:17 AM, August 13, 2007  
Blogger john dodds said...

Yes but it's not a presentation!

5:09 PM, August 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grumpy bugger.

1:44 AM, August 14, 2007  
Blogger lauren said...

Not that I'm disputing that 20 minutes is enough, because it easily is (I'm part of the Mies Van Der Rohe Fanclub), but are you sure it's not about responding to an audience with a short attention span? Even if we are one (an attention-deficit audience that is), does that make it any less a valid point - not to dumb down, but to know thy audience and respond to its capabilities.

4:12 PM, August 16, 2007  
Blogger john dodds said...

Well Lauren I'm not sure it is because, if it were, it would be a much more commonplace occurrence.

8:00 AM, August 17, 2007  

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