A short speech isn’t necessarily a good speech, but a short speech has several advantages over a long speech.
First, a short speech is more likely to hold your audience’s attention.
Because today’s audiences have the attention span of a gnat, the longer you speak — even if you’re presenting brilliant, exciting ideas — the greater your odds of losing their interest.
Say what you have to say as concisely as possible and stop talking.
Second, a short speech forces you to say what you mean…and nothing more.
The only way to keep your speech short is to develop a razor-sharp focus: develop one, and only one, idea. If you can’t sum up the central idea of your speech in under 15 words, you haven’t defined it precisely enough.
- Cut out opening pleasantries like “I’m happy to be here today” or “I don’t have a lot of time so I’ll get right down to it.”
- Eliminate anything — an idea, example, phrase, or word — that isn’t essential.
- If you’re using PowerPoint, get rid of the cover slide and any slide that lacks a visual element (a chart, graph, picture, illustration).
- Stop pussy-footing around. Don’t hem and haw. Don’t add conditional phrases and disclaimers. Take a stand. Show your colors. Boldly assert what you believe.
How long should a speech be? Just long enough to accomplish your goal and not so long that you lose your audience’s interest and goodwill.
I used to advise, “Never give a speech longer than 20 minutes.” Now I think 10 to 12 minutes is long enough. Five to six minutes might even be better.