On March 28, 2012, I will be introducing 6 amazing speakers at The Economist Ideas Economy:  Innovation conference in Berkeley, California, that I had the pleasure of curating, coaching and assisting in the design of their presentations as appropriate.  Their topic:  The demonstration of some of the facets of being an innovation practitioner, as I see it and had agreed upon.

Because this was developed for The Economist, and gosh darn it it’s one of the most important publications of our time, their rapid fire format is unique to them.  It is 20 slides x 16 seconds.  Compared to Pecha Kucha which is 20 slides, 20 seconds and Ignite which is 20 slides 15 seconds (Check out my best practices infographic for Ignite here).  Anyway, there’s a lot I could say on this topic, and in fact plan to (watch this space for a white paper, soon!)  But, there are a few high level tips I’d like to share:

  1. Think of your rapid fire presentation as a monologue with specifically timed visuals.  Meaning, that you should wing each slide, 15-20 seconds goes by VERY quickly.
  2. Don’t try to accomplish too much.  Focus on only one purpose for your presentation:  awareness of your idea, energizing the audience, running through a check list very quickly, etc.  Many presentation have more than one purpose such as “explaining something in depth, selling my product and convincing the audience to change their mind about something.”  To accomplish more goals in an effective manner, you need more time.  Save that for another speaking gig.
  3. Keep your visuals very very simple!  No more than 8 words on a slide, or 1-2 images.  the audience already has a lot to take in.  Don’t overwhelm them.
  4. Memorize your talk.  Rehearse it until you can’t stand it anymore.  But no more than once the day of.  Remember that actors get 6 weeks before you see them on stage.  hey spend the most time on their monologue (which you’ll be doing)
  5. When putting your presentation together, be very clear with your curator about what you need to talk about from the beginning.  It’s tempting to turn your rapid fire talk into a commercial for your latest endeavor.  Most curators don’t want that of you.
  6. Practice with the proper timings set on your laptop.  Many speakers freak out about the speed on stage because the slides go faster than they expected.
  7. If you are giving a talk you give a lot, a good way to shorten it is to give just a section of your talk.  Focus on one section or aspect.  It’s ok to say you’re only talking about part of the talk you typically give, people know you don’t have a lot of time.
  8. Plan for 2-3 sentences per slide.  Anymore content and you won’t fit it in or have a slow enough pace where you can, you know, breathe.

Hopefully these 9 tips will help you give a better rapid fire talk!