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The #1 Most Costly but Avoidable Mistake of Presentations 

presentations

There are 66 words in the Lord’s Prayer, and most people can recite it.

There are 179 words in the 10 Commandments, and most people can name at least a few.

There are 282 words in the Gettysburg address, and most people can recognize it.

Then there are 26,911 words in the United States Government’s Regulation on the Sale of Cabbage, and nobody cares.

The point, as I originally learned from the above illustration by James C Humes, is that when it comes to presentations “less is better.”

Yet, it’s perhaps the number-one mistake that salespeople make in their sales presentations and speakers in their keynote presentations: they talk too much.

They go too long. They share too many details. They divulge too much information.

And as a result, their overall message gets diluted and decreases the likelihood of moving anyone to action.

As presenters, we think that it’s the opposite.

We think we’re serving the audience by trying to squeeze more in but we’re not; we’re dis-serving them.

More is not always better, and that’s especially true when it comes to persuasive presentations.

Too often salespeople talk past the close and miss out on the chance to make what should’ve been an easy sale. Too many presenters drone on and on about useless details that water down what could’ve otherwise been an impactful message. In both instances we miss the mark because we share too much.

Experienced presenters know differently.

I remember when I was working on one of my practice presentations for the World Championship of Public Speaking, I was trying to whittle down my presentation from 9 minutes to the allowable 7.

I had spent 9 months pouring over it, not being able to figure out what to cut out. I felt like everything had to be in there.

And then I sent it to one of my speaking coaches David Brooks, the 1990 World Champion of Public Speaking. He said, “Let me have a quick look at it and see if I can give you some ideas”.

Twenty minutes later he emailed me back the speech, and he had reduced it from about 900 words to 600 just by deleting parts that weren’t critical, changing a few words here and there, and suggesting to replace some of the words with stories and facial expressions that could make the points much faster.

I immediately called him on the phone and said “David, I can’t believe this, you did in 20 minutes what I’ve been trying to do for 9 months!”

He replied, “No Rory, that took me 20 years to learn how to do.”

David went on later to say, “The masters tell the audience every word they need to know but not a word more.”

If you’re in sales (and we all are), or you do any other type of presentations, we should all learn how to do the same.

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