Pitching: Strife within the minute

Pitching: Strife within the minute

Sweat starts forming on your forehead. You’ve been given exactly three minutes for your pitch – or thirty minutes for your presentation. But somewhere you got off track and now you must finish your last paragraph within one sentence. Stuttering, you see the crowd’s attention fade and your one chance at success shatter.

Five techniques

For your next pitch, presentation or TED-talk, here are five techniques to help you ace the time limit.

  1. Account for time to improvise. Purposely make your story 20% shorter than the given time. This brings your mind at ease, as you know that you’ve got all the time to add a little comment here and there. And usually it’s those small additions and side notes that add to the effectiveness of a presentation. You come across natural, rather than robotic or monotonous.
  2. Dare to radically shorten your story. Many people let the given “maximum” also be the exact time they’ll have to fill up with words. But your entire audience will be grateful when you scrap all irrelevant details and make your point concisely. One of the best speeches in history hardly lasted two minutes.
  3. Stand up. Many people practice while sitting down and – people tend to talk faster when they sit. Try visualizing yourself in front of an audience. Try to imagine whether they react to certain statements (Will they laugh? Will it take time to process a message?). Then stand up and practice out loud. Pause when you think it’s necessary. And only after these steps record your speech, to get a reliable indication of how long your story takes to tell.
  4. Is there a countdown clock? Get accustomed to it. Many pitches and TED-talks include a countdown clock. But if you’re used to practicing with a stopwatch counting up, you might get confused. Try and time your speeches with a timer. Also, time your ending, separately. If that takes 30 seconds, even in desperate need you’ll know when to start wrapping up your body and still finish with a strong tail.
  5. Writing your pitch as script? Use the Speech Calculator. In seconds you’ll know how long your written words take to read out lout.