10 Minutes, One Idea

June 26, 2007 13 comments

Can you get your audiences to be this attentive?

Having attended my fair share of conferences over the years, I noticed a couple of things.

1) Speakers often share too much about themselves and their companies.
2) There are too many bullet points flying everywhere.

3) 45 minutes is waaaay too long to capture people’s attention.

4) Printed handouts makes one lazy… and inattentive.

5) Delegates get bored real soon, usually before tea, before lunch, and just after lunch.

6) Handphones, PDA phones and other devices offering mobile connectivity makes it worse.

In this age of social media, RSS readers and bite-sized content, the one thing that is sorely missing is a long and unbroken concentration span. I will be amazed if you can remember 80% of what you heard at a conference say…. last week?

How does one get around these problems of mass distraction? I have an idea.

Just allow 10 minutes per speaker, with each allowed to pitch just one idea. 10 minutes should be enough to elaborate about the background, approach, strategy, tactics and thinking behind an idea. This should then be followed by another 10 minutes of discussion.

Oh yes, I forgot. No handouts please. That way, people have to concentrate, jot down their own notes and really pay attention.

With this in mind, the entire conference/seminar would be kept short, sweet and razor sharp. Perhaps we can limit the intense sessions to just two hours, with the rest of the event dedicated to discussions, networking and lunch (burp). Let people mull over the key learning points, ponder about its application, debate its pros and cons, and imprint it deeply into their minds.

The scarcity of time will make presenters more mindful of what their key messages are, and to devise ways to get it delivered in the most efficient and impactful manner. In fact, this approach is favoured by venture capitalists who get inundated with business plans and funding proposals.

Let’s dispense with the pleasantries and get down to business. And please don’t speak like a speeding bullet.

Of course such an approach may be more stressful for speakers who are used to rambling about their college degrees. Or participants who want to have a relaxing, wistful time daydreaming about their last/upcoming vacation.

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.


  1. I quite like the idea from the TED presenters:

    It gives 20 minutes max for each presenter, of course, you can cut it to less then 20 minutes.

    No handouts, but have video recording available for people to review later.

  2. True. If 10 mins can’t capture the attention of VC, then it’s not worth a business proposition at all.

    Oops, I think I’m guilty of being a speeding bullet…but just because it’s a bad habit. Speed aside, speech should not be monotonous, if not it will surely make pple fall asleep
    :O zzzz

  3. Last night I happened to just think about how to improvise presentations and make it interesting. And now you write this…

  4. melvin,

    Sounds like an idea that we can do soon? I think it will be especially relevant for marketing or PR type conferences. Often, its not how complex your theories are but how inspiring you can be to move people to action. Yes, that’s the word. Action and not words!

  5. tigerfish,

    No worries you are not alone. I think many of us do speak very quickly. My own thinking is that conferences are more of platforms to convey an idea, thought or movement. Trying to get too many points across may stress up the audience and makes learning more difficult.

    Easier said than done though and I myself am guilty of excessive information!

  6. You should check out Village Talk. I went for the first Village Talk held in May07.

    Each speakers are only given 15 mins and allowed to choose any topic they want.

    The next village talk should be in Sept07. 🙂
    I’ll most likely be attending.

  7. Hey, I agree with you, cool insider. I get distracted easily and sometimes miss the gist of the talk.

    I really dislike attening conferences and talks. I wonder why some people like to talk so much about themselves.

  8. hmm..what about humour ah..would they be as attentive if we inject humour in our presentations?

    oh btw..the handouts sounds so gahmen man..keke..everytime we give presentations we always give out handouts..snigger~ but bosses want lah..so what to do..so much for saving the environment man..keke..

  9. jason,

    Humour is definitely a key point in any presentation or speech. It enlivens the entire experience and relieves audience tedium. However, not that easy to be a wisecrack and it probably requires extensive practise.

    Being humble and self deprecating helps you to connect better too.

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