Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I give technical presentations around once a month. These last for about 10-15 minutes.

However, I spend way too much time preparing my talk. I start with writing a complete speech and then practice from it, till I finally get mentally synced with my slides/outline.

After that, I just keep it for reference, and mostly talk on my own. I use the slides as a primary reference, and then if I absolutely need to, refer to my speech.

What methods can I apply to reduce my preparation time and yet deliver good talks?

share|improve this question
not really an answer, but if you already know the topic, why do an entire speech? – warren Jul 10 '13 at 1:18
I know the topic to some extent, but there are areas that I learn about as I prepare the presentation. A little more background; these presentations are done in an academic setting with the aim of exploring or learning about a new/cutting-edge piece of tech or research. We are expected to pick up a topic, read up, develop a basic understanding and present, all within a period of a week or two. – AsheeshR Jul 10 '13 at 2:31
up vote 7 down vote accepted

I am a member of Toastmasters where we practice giving speeches. One of the things I've learned is that practicing giving speeches as greatly reduced my time to prepare. It's also gotten me very cognizant of what a 1-2 minute talk and 5-7 minute talk feels like. And longer talks turn out to be a combination of shorter talks.

As a first step, I recommend you stop writing the speech out in full. Seriously, you can talk about something you know about for a minute without writing it down. And by not having it written down, you aren't tempted to recite exactly what you wrote. As a test of this, tell a friend or stuffed animal the answer to "what is". Try to answer for approximately a minute. I bet you are successful without written notes.

Once you are confident you can do this, you should be able to be able to speak from slides or a bulleted list. Then your prep time can focus on finding the important points to mention rather than the words themselves.

share|improve this answer
I am umm, not a fan of ummm, Toastmasters :-) Thanks for the answer. I will try it out next time. – AsheeshR Jul 13 '13 at 15:37
Nice joke! Made me smile. – Jeanne Boyarsky Jul 13 '13 at 18:48

If you write the full speech to remember difficult information, just write this information with a couple of words ("China eats 1/3 world rice" or "laser = population inversion + stimulated emission") or draw a small sketch. When talking, you will just need to find smooth wording given this core information. And yes, you can write or draw this right on your slides.

Alternatively, you can try a mind map.

If you have problems with wordings, you need practice. I like a funny game which you can play with friends: take a blackboard or whiteboard, choose a bizarre topic (e.g. "there is only one true egg in London" or "seasonal migration of flying swine") and make a 5-minute non-stop speech about it. Your speech should include at least 1 graph.

No preparation is allowed. If you stop speaking, you lose. If your speech is not connected to your topic, you also lose. Crazy axioms or premise are welcome, but conclusions should be logical in some way. We call this game "nonsense generator".

Finally, making good presentations always takes time, there is no way you could do it in an hour.

share|improve this answer

I am a firm believer in the below when it comes to presenting ANY MATERIAL.

First, the 10-20-30 rule .. 10 slides / Size 20 font / 30 minutes maximum (inc 10 minutes for questions), when it comes to the presentation you have to:

  • Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em
  • Tell 'em
  • Tell 'em what you've told 'em

If you were to take that into consideration when planning your material, you would have:

  • Slide 1 Summary Slide
  • Slides 2-4 The problem
  • Slides 5-7 The Solution
  • Slide 8-9 why this is best
  • Slide 10 Summary Slide..again

Finally, I would review it and ask myself, "would my mom understand this?"

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.