If you’re asked to give a short presentation, you’ll need to make it snappy so that your audience will remember it.
How to Make Snappy 5-Minute Presentations (+Quick Ideas & Tips)
Also, you may be given very little time to prepare your presentation. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to make the presentation creation process go quickly and smoothly.
You may think a short presentation is easier to create and give than a long one. While a short presentation can be easy to make if you know what to do, creating and presenting a five minute presentation is not without its challenges.
You need to convey your message, but you don’t want to run over your allotted time. Your audience and your hosts will not appreciate it if you run over.
It’s also important to choose the right topics for a 5 minute presentation. Choosing a topic that’s too complex and can’t be easily explained could be confusing to your audience.
In this tutorial, we present a number of quick ideas and helpful tips for making short presentations. We focus on five-minute presentations, but also discuss how to handle other presentation lengths as well.
Learn how to prepare a great short presentation, pick the right topic, grab your audience’s attention, and keep your timing on target.
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Now let’s get started with today’s tutorial:
Step 1. Know Your Audience Well
With only five minutes for your presentation, you don’t want to waste time covering information your audience already knows. To make sure that you reach your audience with material that they can understand and relate too, you need to know as much about them as you can.
If you don’t understand your audience, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to hold their interest. Research your audience to find out as much as you can about them. A quick way to find out more about your audience is to ask the organization or person who invited you to give the presentation who you’ll be addressing for more information about them.
Now that you’ve learned about your audience, it’s time to choose a topic.
Step 2. Choose the Right Topic
For short presentations, your topic selection is very important. Some topics just do not lend themselves well to presentations because they are too complex.
Here some crucial points to consider when selecting a presentation topic for a 5 minute presentation:
- Choose a topic you are already familiar with.
This will minimize the time you spend researching your topic.
- Keep it simple. Avoid complex topics that
require lots of explanation. If a topic is complex, pick a single, simple
aspect of it to present on, rather than trying to cover it all.
- Stick to one or two main points. Also limit yourself to a minimal
number of sub-points. Because your presentation length is limited, it’s unlikely
you’ll have time for more than that.
- Remember your audience’s background. I can’t say
this enough—to create an engaging presentation you must know your audience.
Now, write your draft:
PresentationsHow to Write a Professional PowerPoint Presentation (Discover the Writing Process)Brad Smith
After your draft is ready, it’s time to start thinking about how your presentation is going to look.
Step 3. Use a Professional Presentation Template
Even short presentations need to look nice. Since this is a quick presentation, you’ll save lots of time by using a template.
Templates give your presentation a professional look without you needing to spend the money to hire a professional designer or the time to design your own template. For most presentation templates, all you need to do is insert your own information in the appropriate places and add your own images. Then, remove the slides from the template that you do not need.
To get an idea of the difference that a professional template can make for your presentation, here is a look at the Simplicity PowerPoint template in red from GraphicRiver:
The Simplicity PowerPoint template has designs for multiple aspect ratios. Choose from fifteen different color options and numerous slide layouts. You can also choose between an animated template or a non-animated template.
You’ll find even more excellent professional Microsoft PowerPoint template options in this curated article:
Step 4. Start With a Powerful Attention Grabber
Since your presentation is so short, you’ll want to pay some extra attention to the opening. You probably don’t have time to show a video or play complex animations. You may not even have time to play a soundtrack.
That’s okay. There are other ways to grab your audience’s attention. These quick attention grabbers are great for short presentations:
- Poll the audience
- Mention a startling statistic
- Show a compelling image
In a short presentation, it’s also a good idea to organize your material so that your most important point is discussed first. This insures that you’ve covered your most important point in case either of the following happens:
- You run out of time
- Your audience loses interest
Your presentation should be starting to come together now, but you’re not ready to give your presentation until you complete the next step.
Step 5. Practice Makes Perfect
For a short speech, practice is critical. Timing your presentation is also the only way to know for sure how long it will take. The shorter the presentation the more crucial it is that you time your speech.
Practice gives you a chance to really polish your presentation. Focus on sounding comfortable and confident. Work on eliminating or reducing any distracting personal habits. Many speakers benefit from having a third party listen as they practice.
Ideally, you want to be able to present your material without reading it verbatim (which can sound stilted and unnatural). So, you’ll be learning your material as you practice.
Once you feel confident about your presentation, time it. Have a colleague or friend help you keep track of how long you speak. Or, use a recording device or other electronic timer.
If you find that your presentation runs over the five-minute mark, remove some of your less important points from the end. Be cautious about doing this, though. Nerves can cause many speakers to speak more quickly during the actual presentation than they normally would.
If your presentation falls short of the five-minute mark, add another short point or summarize what you’ve discussed to make up the time difference.
You’re basically ready to give your 5 minute presentation. But, there are a few more things you should know.
Plan Your Presentation Length
When creating a timed presentation, a common question is “how many PowerPoint slides do I need for a presentation that lasts X minutes?”
The answer is … it depends. There are many variables that determine the number of slides required to fill a specific time slot.
Not all slides are created equal. You’ll want to discuss the information on some in more detail because it’s more complex. Other slides, such as images, may require no discussion on your part. Also, every speaker speaks at a different pace. So, someone who speaks quickly will probably require more slides than someone who speaks more slowly.
These variables are why it’s so important to time your presentation before you give it.
Remember, though, being nervous can make you speak more quickly than you normally would. So, try to keep your pace normal. A short pause between points can help you get your bearings.
The most common presentation mistake is to have too many slides. Having too many slides poses a problem in several ways:
- It’s harder for you, as a speaker to keep up
with all that material. You’re more likely to have to read your presentation.
- Your audience is unlikely to remember all that material
anyway. Your main point is likely to get lost.
- In a shorter presentation, you are more likely
to run out of time.
While I can’t tell you exactly how many PowerPoint slides for a five minute presentation, I can provide you with some overall guidelines that will work for many speakers. Use these guidelines to plan your presentation, and adapt them as needed.
Slide Guidelines for Various Presentation Lengths
Even the experts disagree on how much time you should spend on a single slide. And not all slides in your slide presentation require the same amount of time to present. Still, there are some steps you can use to figure out how many slides you will need.
Start by dividing your presentation into two types of slides:
A simple slide requires very little explanation on your part. Examples of this
type of slide would be your title slide or a graphic that speaks for itself. With the possible exception of your title slide, most
experts agree that you should try to spend less than 30 seconds on a simple
This slide requires some explanation on your part. These are the slides that
you will use to convey your message. Most experts agree that you should spend
between one and no more than three minutes on this type of slide. When you’re timing your
presentation if you find that a slide takes more than three minutes to present, divide it
into two slides.
During your practice session, pay attention to how long each type of slide takes you to present. If you’ve given lots of presentations already, you may already know. If you’re new to giving presentations, you will have to get this figure when you time your presentation as you practice.
Here’s how these guidelines might play out when planning different length presentations:
Presentation. Stick to one main idea. Keep it simple. A single slide may be
enough, but use no more than two slides–one of which is a title slide with the
company name and presentation title that won’t require discussion. If you can,
have the title slide on the screen before your presentation starts. Leave
it up as you introduce the presentation (about 15 seconds). The second slide
covers a very simple main point (plan on 45 seconds to discuss it). You may have no sub-points and no discussion, as this is a very short talk.
Presentation. Again, stick to one or two simple, main ideas. You may have several
simple sub-points. Use the company name slide to open your presentation (15 seconds).
If your topic is complex, you may spend nearly the entire three minutes on a
single slide. For simple topics that require less than a minute per slide, you
may need up to six slides.
Presentation. For this slightly longer
presentation you can cover four very simple points or one complex point with several
sub-points. Plan on a title slide (up to 30 seconds), and you can insert some
opening humor or other attention grabber. With a complex topic slide you may find
yourself spending three minutes on it, which would leave about a minute and a
half for two sub-points–so four slides in that scenario. You will may need up to ten slides if your topics are very simple.
Presentation. With a longer presentation like this, plan on a pause of
several minutes after about seven minutes. You could use this time as a
question and answer period or just allow your audience to stretch. Following the break, you’ll need another attention
grabber. You also have time to include more complex attention grabbers such as short
videos and animations. You could need between five and 20 slides, depending on
the complexity of your material.
- 30-Minute or Longer Presentations. Longer presentations allow you to present more material that’s more complex. You’re also likely to include more slides. When
creating a longer presentation, don’t forget to allow for your audience’s human
needs. You’ll need to include more planned pauses. Also, most experts agree that you should plan on a bathroom break at least
once an hour. After the bathroom break, you will need to recapture your
audience’s attention again. For very long presentations you may need to plan for a snack or a meal.
Note: Remember that these are general guidelines and that there are exceptions to every rule. The final determination on how long to spend on each slide is determined by holding your audience’s attention and keeping to your allotted time.
You won’t know for sure how closely to follow these guidelines unless you time your speech. After practicing, you may find that you need to tweak the guidelines by adding or subtracting a slide. Or, if you are spending too much time on a single slide, you may need to narrow down your material.
Below I’ve included slides that I created using the Simplicity PowerPoint template from GraphicRiver. These slides are made quickly for a short presentation.
From practicing, I know that this presentation takes approximately two minutes to give. Here’s the first slide, which is my title:
For this slide, all the presenter would need to say is their name, the title of the presentation, and the name of the company. Note that not everything the presenter says is on the slide. This title slide took me 15 seconds to present. Your results could vary.
Here’s the next slide:
This slide basically introduces the company. Again, not everything I’m going to say is on the slide. This simple slide took me 30 seconds to present.
Here is a second example of a 30 second slide:
The final slide in this very short presentation is a little more complex, but it still only took 45 seconds for me to present:
Make Your Presentation Scalable
Many professionals are asked to do variations of the same presentation over and over. Sales professionals, for example, may need to have long and short versions of the same presentation topic.
If this is what you need to do, keep in mind the points above. It’s best to create and save the long version presentation first and then edit the material down and re-save it as a shorter, more focused version of the presentation. Be careful not to overwrite your original presentation though.
Once you’ve done this several times, it will get easier.
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Download our new eBook: The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations. It’s available for free with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business Newsletter.
Now You’re Ready to Make a Great 5 Minute Presentation
You can create an effective slide presentation for any amount of time, if you know how. With the right planning, you can quickly create snappy 5 minute presentations with just the right number of slides.
When creating a short presentation, remember that it’s important to know your audience well. It’s also crucial that you pick a simple topic that’s right for them.
Most importantly, remember to practice and time your presentation. Timing is the only way to know for sure how long it will take you to give a presentation. Keep in mind that you may speed up your delivery during the actual presentation, so aim to account for that.
Now, that you know what to do, you’re ready to create your own 5 minute presentation. Good luck!