Developing and delivering a five-minute presentation seems an easy enough task at first -- until you realize the condensed format actually requires significantly more efficiency, focus, and attention to detail than longer presentation types.
When there's less time to get your point across, every second counts more.
While short presentations can be unexpectedly challenging to create, when done correctly they can be more impactful than longer presentations.
Five minutes is just enough time for you to present a compelling narrative about one topic, without any filler or fluff. The time limit forces you to pack as much valuable information as possible into your presentation while maintaining a coherent structure.
The shorter format also encourages audiences to pay more attention.
But how can you ensure your short presentation accomplishes everything it needs to within just five short minutes? We've put together an (appropriately condensed) guide on five-minute presentations to help you get started.
How Many Words Are in a 5-Minute Presentation?
A person speaks on average 120 to 160 words a minute, which means the average five-minute presentation will be anywhere from 600 to 800 words. That means every word should be carefully chosen to support the central idea of your presentation.
When constructing a longer presentation, you might be more concerned about transitions and keeping the audience engaged with more extensive narrative elements.
In a short presentation, everything you say should directly tie back to your central premise and further advance your main point. By keeping a tight scope and using your words carefully, you'll ensure your time isn't wasted and the audience leaves with a clear, singular takeaway.
How many slides are in a 5-minute presentation?
Generally speaking, you'll want to stick to just five or six slides for a five-minute presentation, but there's no set limit on how many yours will require. You may choose to have twenty slides and to spend about 10 or 15 seconds on each depending on your subject matter.
More important than your slide count is what each slide contains. While it's a good rule to keep your slides simple and focused on visuals (instead of text) for a presentation of any length, this becomes especially important when you're dealing with a condensed presentation window.
It can be tempting with a small time window to try to cram in as much information as possible -- resist the urge. Instead, focus on simple, clean visuals that (once again) all tie back to your central premise.
If you're concerned that scaling back the scope of your presentation will leave things out, add a slide at the end of the deck with additional resources and information that your audience can access after the presentation is over.
If you're looking for a starting point for your own five-minute presentation, we've created a basic outline below you can use to organize your initial thoughts in the planning stage.
You can choose to devote one slide to each section or multiple slides if you want to break them down further.
Feel free to make departures from the structure depending on the content or format of your presentation. Just remember not to give your audience too much to chew on -- the key here is -- you guessed it -- tying every slide back to one central idea.
An Extremely Short Introduction
Your first slide should serve as an introduction to the topic of your presentation. Try to limit your title to around six words or even less. If your title is too long, it can become unwieldy and your presentation may confuse your audience by covering too much.
Remember: your audience (hopefully!) already has an idea of what you're presenting on, so you don't need to spend too much precious time or slide real-estate explaining what you're going to cover -- just jump right in.
A Problem Slide
Most presentations can be boiled down to a problem you've identified, solved, or are in the process of solving. Lead with that familiar narrative. It will give your presentation a clear starting point and prime your audience for the rest of your slides.
A Solution/Analysis Slide(s)
Now that your problem has been introduced, tell your audience what they need to know about what you're doing about it. In shorter presentation formats, you'll want to focus less on the details and more on the big-picture items. Ask yourself: what does your audience need to know when they leave the room? Anything that falls into the "nice to know" category can be cut and delivered to stakeholders after the meeting in a follow-up email.
A Conclusion Slide
The conclusion side allows you to bring a coherent end to your presentation and summarize the important takeaway points for your audience. Don't skimp on your conclusion just because it's a short presentation -- it's the last thing your audience will hear from you. A good conclusion will reinforce the other information you presented and ultimately makes your presentation as a whole more memorable.
5-Minute Presentation Examples
While we (unfortunately) weren't in the room when these presentations were originally given -- and therefore can't confirm with 100% certainty that they ran for only five minutes -- these decks all clock in at under 15 slides and use a simple format to convey a problem and solution.
Here are some best practices to follow when crafting a short presentation.
1. Focus on the most important part.
The greatest challenge you'll have when designing your presentation is choosing what to focus on -- but from the format we discussed above, you can see how important it is to have a single premise to design your presentation around.
It's easy to become overambitious in your presentation or to be overwhelmed by the information you want to present. Choosing a single idea to focus on gives you clarity when designing your speech and allows you to cut extraneous information. It also provides a narrative structure that your audience can more easily grasp.
2. Research, fact-check, and do it twice.
Your presentation is your chance to shine -- but the shorter format also means that each point you make is going to be more visible, memorable, and consequentially more vulnerable to scrutiny.
Take the time to thoroughly research the subject of your presentation and ensure every point you make is both technically accurate and easy to understand. This will put you in a better position to field questions and discuss your subject in-depth. With a strong command of your subject matter, your delivery will also be more confident and convincing.
3. Appeal to how people learn best: stories.
A story can give meaning to your presentation and elevate it to more than just facts, figures, and some flashy slides. Building your presentation around a simple, easy-to-understand narrative (like the problem/solution narrative we showed you in the template avoid) can make your content more digestible. Your presentation will only last for a few minutes, but the story you tell needs to stick around in your audiences' brains for longer -- and stories naturally help humans understand and retain information more easily.
4. Don't skip that practice session.
Just because your presentation is only five minutes doesn't mean you should try to wing it. Your audience's time is valuable, and practicing your presentation before you deliver it to them will help you make the most of it.
From CEOs to interns, everyone can benefit from practicing their presentations in advance, no matter how confident they are.
If you're able to deliver much (or all) of it by heart, your delivery will be much more natural, allowing you to develop a stronger connection with your audience. And once nerves hit, you'll have the muscle memory to fall back on and carry you through the rough patches!
5. Relax and don't rush.
You only have five minutes to present, so it's only natural to feel pressure to go a little too fast. Stay relaxed throughout your presentation and avoid distractions, such as someone informing you that you only have a minute left.
Staying focused on your presentation itself will improve your delivery and give you more confidence, even if you're normally terrified of public speaking.
If you find yourself needing to speed through your presentation to squeeze it into a five-minute window, that's a good sign you're trying to do too much and need to consider cutting your slides down.
You Know Your Audience Best
When creating your five-minute presentation, think about your audience and craft it to appeal to them.
The information you decide to highlight and the way you frame it will be vastly different depending on who your presentation is meant for.
It's natural to be nervous going into your presentation, especially if you don't like public speaking or have a fear of it, but with enough consideration and practice, you'll be a master of whatever subject you hope to present.
Originally published Dec 29, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated June 16 2021