Perhaps you've been granted time at a department meeting to explain why a certain study should be conducted. Or perhaps your line manager wants you to justify a personnel request. Or perhaps your division head wants to know the repercussions of a variety of options being considered as a response to an issue.
You've been given five minutes to present. It's the five minutes that will make or break your case, add to your credibility, and keep a project or initiative viable and on track.
How many messages can you deliver in five minutes? Probably only one: an analysis, a recommendation, a forecast, a perspective on benefit/risk. In such a short presentation, you must make your point immediately. No long introductory comments, no needless background, no irrelevancies.
Focus your message so that your perspective or recommendation is instantly clear and leaves no room for audience speculation:
- "Adding three FTEs in the next fiscal year will enable our team to meet with regulatory authorities one year earlier than expected, advancing the timeline by one year and cutting 28 million dollars from our development budget."
- "Although switching suppliers will involve some initial cost, the changeover will result in a higher-quality product in line with our customers' expectations and buying patterns."
- "By making two changes in our statistical analysis plan, we can harvest data that will be more helpful in establishing our long-range goals."
Deliver that single message with emphasis and authority. Refer to it as you provide the facts, data, and other support upon which it is based, and emphasize it again as you close.
What's meaningful? The most important and persuasive evidence on which you relied in forming your opinion, recommendation, or perspective.
In a five-minute presentation you cannot discuss everything that led you to your position or conclusion. So select that which provides the most solid support—including that which your listeners will find the most compelling—and arrange it in a logical and reasoned way.
In these and similar internal speaking situations, you may already know your listeners well and may, in fact, have previously presented to them. Use what you know as you shape your presentation, both its content and structure but also its style. Plan to address what you know to be listeners' most frequent concerns—bottom line or PR, manufacturing schedule or government regulations, legalities or product quality.
Also try to increase what you know about your audience. Ask colleagues to describe their experience presenting before that particular audience. Did its members interrupt to ask questions? Did they ask for more detail? Did they seem to be focused on the presentation or were they clicking away on cell phones during it? Did they initiate Q&A afterwards? What kinds of questions did they ask?
The more you know, the better prepared you can be. And to be best prepared, rehearse.
You've been given five minutes, only five minutes, so make it your persuasive best.