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Is Your Presentation Time Balanced?
Frank DiBartolomeo --  Presentation Coach For Technical Professionals Frank DiBartolomeo -- Presentation Coach For Technical Professionals
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Centreville, VA
Sunday, October 22, 2023


“Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much.”

– Robert Greenleaf, founder of the modern servant leadership movement and the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership

Have you ever attended a presentation where, even though the speaker’s main points were evident, the speaker spent uneven time on some parts of the speech (i.e., opening, body, closing), some main points, and some sub-points?

When you do this as a speaker, you are subliminally telling your audience some parts of your presentation are more important than others, even though you intended to have your presentation’s elements equal in duration.

This article will examine these imbalances and what you can do about them.

Opening – Body – Closing Time Duration Balance

Let’s start at the “50,000-foot level.”

Your audience has come to hear you speak about the content of your presentation. Sure, a great opening and closing are requisite to an excellent presentation, but your audience will assume the opening and closing will be a bit shorter than the body of your speech.

You have probably attended a presentation wondering when the speaker will get to their message. Don’t do this to your audience.

There was a Wendy’s Restaurant commercial several years ago. The tagline was “Where’s the beef?” You never want your audience to ask themselves where the “beef” is in your presentation.

My rule of thumb is that 10% to 15% of the allotted presentation time should be dedicated to the opening and closing, each with 70% to 80% of the allotted presentation time dedicated to your presentation’s body (your message).

The best way to determine these percentages is by timing the opening, body, and closing separately during your practice sessions.

Chances are, the first few times you practice your presentation, your opening and closing will far exceed 10% to 15% of the total presentation time. Practice your speech several times, including “shaving off” words in your opening and closing until you meet these percentages.

I am not going to lie to you. This can be a tedious process. However, your audience will appreciate your efforts, and your presentation will be more successful.

Now that we have looked at the “50,000-foot level” of your presentation let’s look at the “10,000-foot level.”

Main Point Time Duration Balance

Regarding timing, we now look at time equity for your main points, the “10,000-foot level.”

Equal time division between your three main points is also essential. If you spend appreciably more time on one or two points than the remaining one or two points, you will signal to your audience that the main point you spend more time on is more important, even though this was not your intent.

My rule of thumb is to spend 20% to 25% of the allotted presentation time on each of your three main points. This gives you enough time to use your sub-points to develop the main point but not “beat a dead horse” (spending too much time on any main point).

You should have a transition to your first main point, transitions between main points, and a transition after your third main point to your closing.

Now that we have looked at the “50,000-foot” and “10,000-foot levels” of your presentation, let’s now look at the “500-foot level” – main point sub-points.

Sub-Point Time Duration Balance

Designing your three sub-points for every main point so they are close to equal in time gets dicey because you must divide the time for each main point into smaller time durations. These smaller time durations make it harder to maintain around the same time duration for your sub-points because there is less time to work with.

A good rule of thumb for your sub-points is to make them at most 6% of the total time of your presentation.

The best way to do this is to practice the sub-points separately after allotting a fraction of your main point time to a specific sub-point.

If you are overtime for any sub-point, you may have to delete some material from the specific sub-point.

If you are under time for any sub-point, you may have to add some material. However, be cautionary. Time goes quickly for sub-points. You may think you have added the right amount of extra material to your sub-point but are now over time.

There is no right way or wrong way to ensure the time durations of your sub-points are correct. Use trial and error to see if the sub-points conform in time. Remember, the allotted time duration will determine how much material should be in your sub-points.

We have looked at presentation time durations at the “50,000-foot level” (opening, body, closing), “10,000-foot level” (main points), and “500-foot level” (sub-points) of your presentation.

Your ability to “dissect” your presentation into these levels and plan the time according to each level will determine whether you cover the minimum amount of material necessary for your audience without going over time.

Using what this article says will significantly increase the likelihood of your presentation’s success.

Call to Action

  • Ensure you stick to the percentages of 10% to 15% for your opening and closing

  • Ensure your three main points have the same or close to the same time duration – 20% to 25% of the total presentation time

  • Ensure each of your three sub-points for each main point is no more than 6% of the total presentation time

“There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.”

– Alexander Gregg, an Episcopal clergyman, was the first bishop of Texas

Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.

Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals by improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at frank@speakleadandsucceed.com and (703) 509-4424.


Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!

“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”

Available now at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Frank DiBartolomeo, Jr.
Title: President
Group: DiBartolomeo Consulting International, LLC
Dateline: Centreville, VA United States
Cell Phone: (703) 509-4424
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