Have you shortened your talk yet?

Attention span is getting shorter and shorter. At least mine. I can’t do the same thing for 50 minutes straight, can you? Books became thinner. In the past getting a 1500-page book on programming for $40 would be considered a good deal. Now people don’t want to buy books that have more than 500 pages. In my recent book project the publisher decided to not include a 60-page chapter in the printed version, but offered it as a free online bonus chapter. The chapter content was good, but marketers said that thinner books sell better.

IT conferences should follow the same trend. 50-minute presentations are so last century! Some conferences include ignite talks. They last 5-10 minutes, and ideally, the slides should be flipped automatically to force presenters stay focused. This is called Pecha Kucha.

I can share a secret with you: I can deliver a 50-min presentation in 25 min. Or in 15. Or in 5. Just tell me how much time I have, and I’ll remove the irrelevant content. It’s like extracting juice concentrate.

Shorter presentations would require better concentration not only from the speakers, but from the audience as well. There is no time for checking emails, tweets, or reading the news. As a matter of fact, the conference organizers wouldn’t need to pay outrageous amounts of money for providing this flaky Wi-Fi connections for the audience. No time for Internet browsing.

A typical IT conference runs for 3-4 days averaging 7 presentation slots per track daily. What if each presentation would run for half the time – 25 minutes? A rare conference would run for more than two days. This translates into cost savings for both conference organizers and those who pays for a trip to the conference. For those who who are not in the know, I have another secret to share. Remember that airline-quality lunch that you got for free? The conference organizers paid anywhere from $50 to a $100 for each plate.

Can software developers absorb 14 presentations a day? Yes, we can. But realistically, none of the conferences can offer 14 interesting presentation a day. Except one. TED. BTW, I don’t remember ever watching a TED presentation that was longer than 25 minutes, and they were all great!

Can IT conferences follow the leader? Yes they can. Last month I was participating in the HTML5Dev/IOTA conference in San Francisco. Take a look at the schedule. It was based on 20-min slots. But if a speaker wanted to talk for 50, he would get 2 slots + 10 minute break. It worked like charm.

Pretty often attendees find themselves in a wrong auditorium after the first 5 minutes into the talk. Some of them are shy to simply walk out. 50 minutes of their time wasted. If the presentations were shorter, they would have wasted only 20 minutes!

Anyway, this blog is getting too long too, but as someone said, “Sorry, I din’t have time to write you a shorter letter”.

One thought on “Have you shortened your talk yet?

  1. I think 50 minutes talks is a great exercise. “You should stay focused for 50 minutes”. Greatly improves attention span.The more attention span the better developer.

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