3 Ways to Rock Your Short Talk

Eleni Kelakos Executive leadership coaching, Peak Performance, presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

Sammy, a young inventor, and the winner of a prestigious 30 under 30 award from Forbes, Inc was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: To give a short talk about his groundbreaking invention at the prestigious annual Forbes summit.  When he called me to set up some coaching sessions to help him shape his presentation, I asked how long his short talk needed to be.  “Five minutes on the nose,” he replied.

Five minutes to give a short talk with career-boosting impact.

Five minutes to give a short talk to an audience of deep-pocketed potential investors.

Five minutes to give a short talk reported and recorded by media outlets with a national and international reach.

“This,” I said, “is the very definition of a spotlight moment. Let’s get to work!”

And work we did. Over the course of numerous meetings over two weeks, Sammy and I got hyper-clear about the focus of his short talk and fleshed out its narrative. Then we pruned and shaped it, pulling out whatever wasn’t necessary, and leaving in what was.  And then Sammy rehearsed it, out loud, against a stopwatch. By the time we were done, Sammy had rehearsed the presentation to such a degree that it felt like a part of him, boosting his confidence.

I’ll never forget the text I got from Sammy right after he gave his short talk at the Summit. “Score!’ he wrote. “It went so great I’m going to have stay two extra days to meet with everyone who wants to talk to me!” 

I was thrilled his presentation went so well, but not surprised. Vinny knocked it out of the park with his short talk because he was willing to put in the time and effort to do three essential things:

  1. Determine the Focus:  This means pinpointing your big idea, the “why,” that acts as the skewer that holds the talk together. The stronger and clearer the focus, the stronger and more compelling your talk.
  2. Prune and Shape: The best talks, like the best songs or the best poems, are the sum of the words you leave in AND the words you leave out. As you put the narrative of the talk together, do the work to continuously snip out language or material that weakens your message; and leave in or add material that heightens it. Remember: What you leave out is as important as what you leave in.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice: Rehearse your finalized talk out loud against a clock, so that you can deliver it within the required time frame in a relaxed, conversational manner, with room to breathe. If any of the words you utter are clunky to speak and impede your flow, snip them out or change them. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll feel. 

Short talks come in all forms and lengths, from giving a prestigious Tedx Talk, to introducing an esteemed colleague at an event, to pitching your product or service at business meeting.   Whether you speak for seven minutes or seventeen, each of those minutes matters. So follow Vinny’s lead, and do  whatever it takes to make your short talk rock. Because you never know who might be in the audience.

Need help putting your short together? Let’s talk about individual coaching.

Want to participate in a small group course that will lead you to starting and finishing your short talk?  Learn more about, or register for,  for my upcoming Rock Your Short Talk virtual course.