Treat Your Presentation Like A Performance To Nail Timing, Delivery

Treat Your Presentation Like A Performance To Nail Timing, Delivery

Giving a presentation is a nerve-wracking experience for most people and they wonder how anyone can ever give a smooth and end-right-on-time presentation. Take a cue or two from popular author and speaker Malcolm Gladwell to give a stronger presentation.

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Gidean Rachman, a writer for the Financial Times, found himself at a speaking conference with Malcolm Gladwell. He was enormously impressed with Gladwell’s presentation, specifically with the way the presentation appeared effortless, unrushed, and ended with perfect punctuality — a contrast to Rachman’s own speech which started off well paced but ended up rushed and didn’t finish the way he would have liked.

So how does Gladwell do it? Afterwards, I broke through the autograph-hunters surrounding him and asked him how he managed to time his talk so beautifully – so that it ended bang on 45 minutes, without ever looking at his watch. He answered – “I know it may not look like this. But it’s all scripted. I write down every word and then I learn it off by heart. I do that with all my talks and I’ve got lots of them”

It sounds like a most elementary sort of advice &mdash ;just memorise it! — but it contrasts sharply with the “put a few bullet points down on a piece of paper” camp that most people belong to when it comes to getting ready for a presentation.

Although Gladwell may come across to his audience as though he is having an informal chat with them, he’s heavily invested himself on the back-end by memorising his speech, ironing out any problems, condensing it for the time he has, and refining his performance before it ever hits the stage. Treating his speeches like a performance and not him simply talking about the topic at hand allows him to polish his presentation in a way that informal speaking doesn’t allow for.

Have a tip or trick of your own for preparing for presentations? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

The Secrets of Malcolm Gladwell [via The Strategist]


  • I’ve heard Malcolm Gladwell speak and he was indeed impressive, engaging and polished. In fact, I loved his talk. However, I was fully under the impression that he had memorised every word, not that this in any way detracted from the presentation.

  • I did a public speaking comp’ years ago, did a ten minute slot. Did the above technique and memorised every word. Found one very big problem with this, I wasn’t nervous in anyway, infact I was very relaxed so much so that I got completely bored on stage. Felt very disconnected from my speech.

    After that, decided to do the next talk totally unscripted, even without knowing what the subject was – got up and had the audience eating out of my hand. Got 100% and beat all thirty other wannabes.

  • I’ve tried the scripted approach, but it just doesn’t work for me. I recently gave a presentation where I’d scripted the first half but, due to time limitations (or PPP), the second half was unscripted. I was told that the second half flowed much better and I was far more relaxed and interesting. Everyone has different methods, scripting is one that I’ve crossed off my list.

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