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When talking about anything that you’re passionate about, it’s natural to want to go on at length, particularly when talking about your business and the developments within your industry.

However, I’m sure you’ll know yourself that being bombarded with information for an hour is too much – you simply can’t take it all in.

A successful talk is as much about memory retention as it is about depth of information – the two need to be in perfect balance. This is why the TED talks, which are usually incredible regardless of subject, never exceed 18 minutes.

Here’s what TED curator Chris Anderson said about his ideal length of talks:

“It’s long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention. It turns out that this length also works incredibly well online. It’s the length of a coffee break. So, you watch a great talk, and forward the link to two or three people. It can go viral, very easily.”

While it can be challenging to deliver a concise talk, Anderson believes it also helps speakers to be disciplined:

“The 18-minute length also works much like the way Twitter forces people to be disciplined in what they write. By forcing speakers who are used to going on for 45 minutes to bring it down to 18, you get them to really think about what they want to say.”

So, how do you cut down a lengthy talk into a streamlined version that doesn’t compromise in quality?

Here are a few tips:

Treat your talk like a story

Think of the overall plot and decide what the key events are in your story. There may be many parts that aren’t essential to the overall plot. Sure, they might be interesting, but if they aren’t crucial in the story, they are worth sacrificing. Outline your most important points in a sort of storyboard, thinking about the introduction and summary. Then include the best of each chapter and start forming a natural flow from one to another.

Be the viewer

When you’re performing a talk, it can be really tricky to assess which parts are crucial and which parts should be sacrificed. You’ll practice your talk many times over before performing, even in front of family and friends, but it is best not to rely solely on them for what to keep and what to cut, as they might not be completely honest! By videoing yourself you can put yourself in the position of the audience, making it easier to objectively dissect your talk.

Watch plenty of other talks

Take some time to watch other talks. TED, of course, have an extensive library of world-class talks to watch online for free. When you’re watching, observe how each speaker tells their story. How do they progress from point to point? Which parts do they address briefly, and which do they talk about in more detail? Most importantly, ask yourself why each speaker has structured the talk the way they have, and try to apply the same methodology to your own talk.

We’d love to hear your ideas and experiences on how to give a successful talk, so please leave us a comment below or on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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