I just presented the topic of International Audit Report Writing to a dynamic group of global Internal Audit executives in Scandinavia. It was an opportunity for the CAEs to share and ask about some of their most common pain points when it comes to audit report writing, and to learn about best practices in structure, language and style.
As I had no timepiece with me at the front of the room during the presentation, I asked our moderator to help me monitor the time: ‘How’s my timing?’
- Her first answer? ‘1 hour 15 minutes left’. Awesome, we’re just warming up.
- Then: ‘About an hour to go’. Lots of time left. Great, as I still had much to cover.
- Then ’45 minutes’. Still time to get to the rest of my key points.
- And then suddenly: ‘Well, thank you, Tracie, that was very interesting and helpful’. D’oh! I still had at least 10 slides left in my slide deck!
If you’re running out of time in your presentation
Presentations take planning and preparation, but sometimes things just don’t go as planned.
If you realize you are running out of time while delivering your presentation, you have a few options:
- Start cutting out topics/slides that are ‘nice to have’ but are not critical to get your messages across, action taken, etc.
- Ask for a follow-up meeting to finish your presentation properly.
While this may be feasible, you could lose valuable momentum and support.
- Ask for more time.
I don’t recommend this, as everyone is usually busy and their calendars booked solid. You would lose some participants at the planned end time regardless, and you could irritate a few participants, too.
- Talk faster.
I don’t recommend this either. What becomes memorable is your poor delivery, not your main messages or the action you would like your audience to take.
So that leaves us with option 1: cut out the excess and stick to those points that are absolutely critical to ensure your success and your audience’s success.
If your time is up, but you haven’t finished your presentation
In my case, there was no 5-minute warning, such as: ‘Tracie, you’ve got 5 minutes to wrap up’. Instead, it was a friendly yet firm hard stop. (No offense intended to the moderator… she was wonderful and helpful in every way. It was my mistake… read on.)
As the applause rang out in the room, I glanced at the printout of my presentation. I let out a small internal sigh as there was nothing to be done. I thanked those audit executives for their time, shook a few hands, promised to keep in touch, packed up and left the room to make way for the next presenter.
The thought went through my head that I didn’t get to talk enough about the benefits! To individual audit team members, to audit teams, to audit executives and to the organization as a whole.
I didn’t get to summarize the key techniques their teams can use to persuade in writing! The 5Cs, linking phrases and more.
We did talk about their pain points and what solutions might look like. I talked through at least half of my slides. There was lots of discussion and interaction. Some participants were madly writing things down on paper to capture the techniques and strategies we were discussing.
Looking back, it was enough. I could feel the positive energy in the room. It was fun: great new contacts, great conversation, lots of value added. It was a success!
I’ll send the slide deck to the moderator later this week. With any luck, those 15 executives will go through the slides themselves and see the ones I wasn’t able to present. And I know they all took away SOMEthing to help bring their teams forward in the skill of audit report writing.
Presentation lessons learned
- Plan your timing and choreography carefully before you take the stage.
- Be very clear, in advance, which slides you can skip and which ones need to be up on the screen for your audience to see.
- Be very clear on the main messages that you want to communicate, with or without slides on the screen.
- Wear a watch or use your phone to track your own time!
- If you have a helper to manage your timing, ask them to give you a 5-minute warning before the end of your time slot. (Otherwise, they won’t know to do that.)
Wishing you every success in your next presentation.
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