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A few months ago, I was invited to give a presentation at TechTO, a popular meetup.

I assumed it would be a standard presentation in which I would talk for 30 to 40 minutes, and then do a Q&A. Then, I was told it was a five-minute presentation, which is a completely different creature.

Now, I’ve never given a five-minute presentation….unless you count show and tell during elementary school. So I had to figure out how to talk about the value of storytelling….and do it really quickly.

For anyone who needs to do a five-minute presentation, here’s what I learned:

  1. At most, you have five or six slides. Your introduction and conclusion are 30 to 45 seconds each, so you have about 45 seconds per slide. When I do “regular” presentations, they involve anywhere from 35 to 60 slides.
  2. The slides need to be simple – photos or a few words – that you can talk over. You don’t want people reading your slides because they won’t be listening to you, which is a bad thing when every second counts.
  3. Be provocative, outspoken or outrageous. With so little time, you want to make an impression and be memorable. My “killer” line was: “Entrepreneurs are terrible storytellers”. It is a slight exaggeration, but it was an attention grabber and generated good social media traction.
  4. Writing a script is a no-brainer. We’re not talking about a lot of words so it’s important to see every word that you’re going to say. Then, you need ruthlessly edit your words – eliminating anything unnecessary or superfluous.
  5. It’s super-important to rehearse. Every presentation requires rehearsing but five-minute presentations make practice absolutely necessary. I probably did a dozen run-throughs of the presentation to make sure it flowed and it wasn’t too long. Along the way, I eliminated a couple of slides and squeezed down the content.
  6. When presenting, the pace should be steady but it’s important not to rush. Since a small number of points are being offered up, make every point count. If I had to do it over again, I would have chopped a question that I posed to the audience that probably ate up 30 seconds.
  7. Ignore the well-intentioned person in front of you holding up a piece of paper that says “30 seconds to go”. It’s distracting and encourages you to rush to the end. Instead, stay focused and relaxed to ensure the presentation ends the way you want. If the presentation is a few seconds too long, no one is going to complain.
  8. Enjoy your time on stage. The opportunity to do presentation is  a good thing, no matter long. I always appreciate being asked to present because it’s an amazing way to present ideas and connect.

Here’s a video of the presentation, while the slides are below:

More: For some excellent insight into how to give a presentation, check out Scott Berkun’s “Confessions of a Public Speaker”. For anyone who speaks or aspires to speak, it’s an insider’s take on the realities of public presentations.


If you’re looking to jump-start your messaging ability to tell good stories, I can help you make it happen. I recently published a book, Storytelling for Startups, that provides strategic and tactical guidance to entrepreneurs looking to embrace the power of story-driven marketing.

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