Sales Presentation Length: How to Keep the Audience Engaged

Sales Presentation Length: How to Keep the Audience Engaged
November 4, 2013

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Many sales presentations go on for too long. 40 minutes, 60 minutes, or even more isn’t unheard of – even in a prospecting session. How long should a sales presentation be? There’s no definitive answer, and nor can there be.

sales-presentation-length-keeping-audience-engagedAudiences are different, sales cycles are different, and content is different. Essentially, you want to cover your key messages in a compelling and persuasive way. You don’t want to lose your audience’s attention. Your sales presentation length needs to be long enough to say what you need to say in a punchy manner – but no longer.

We’ve seen attention spans drawn as a hammock, or a hump, as a straight slope down, and plenty of variations in between. All of these graphics assume there’s a ‘fundamental’ audience attention curve that is the same from presentation to presentation.

But now watch this clip of Bill Gates at TED:

What do you think happened to attention levels in the room?

Do you really think attention levels follow the same curve regardless of what the presenter does?

How would research into ‘natural’ attention levels even work? Would findings about attention levels in boring text-heavy presentations have any weight for dynamic and visual presentations?

We’ve seen presentations that start with slides all about your company history, and structure, and key financials, and client logos.

What do you think happens to attention levels if your first few slides are boring corporate naval-gazing of the most tedious kind?

Yep, they drop off. That doesn’t mean attention levels are always low at the start of a presentation though – they aren’t if something interesting happens.

Don’t let your presentation have a ‘boring bit’. If you think it does, you need to tighten the content.

Don’t save your best content until the end as the audience might have stopped listening before you ever show it. Keep sections relatively short and reasonably spaced – to ensure that attention levels don’t drop off too fast. Interactivity works brilliantly to keep audiences engaged – consider building a visual conversation instead of a one-way presentation. And if you really want to know how long a presentation should be, the right answer is probably “as short as it can be to work”.

Do you need to present for more than 20 minutes? Often not.

For more insights from the folks at BrightCarbon, check out their blog and follow them on Twitter @BrightCarbon.