The Rule of 75% for Presentations

It has been a while now but it is a lesson not soon forgotten. I was running open communication skills workshops here in Toronto a number of years ago and was hosting a weekend certificate course. I had a fantastic time training the wonderful, energetic group of participants. This was not the first time I had organized a public workshop and prepared materials for it. I really love training others in art of effective communication skills, for business or pleasure.

Unfortunately on this one weekend, due to my over-zealousness to try to give the group all of my best information, the afternoon of the second day ended up seeming quite rushed, especially the last 2 hours. I had packed too much information into the course and workbooks, and although I knew they could read it at home as many times as they needed to digest it, I wanted to 'teach' it in class. I ended up rushing through it, glossing over important data, speeding through what normally would have been fun and on-point examples or role-plays, and apologized the whole way through. I felt quite bad, even though the participants were patient and understanding, at least to a point of politeness. This was not something I wanted to do nor would ever recommend, and I vowed to never make that mistake again in teaching or training or any kind.

I now introduce to you what i should have remembered that day, and more specifically, during the preparation time of that workshop; the 75% rule of public speaking and presentations. Simply only prepare for 75% of the time allotted. That way you have time to slow down, relax, field questions along the way, and even digress a little, as often is the case anyway. You know, story-telling is a natural digression and can dramatically increase audience listening and participation. Everyone likes a good and hopefully relevant story, and therefore it only makes sense to be able to feel free to tell or hear participant stories that are relevant and supportive of the presentation or seminar. Since that day I have always prepared for only 75% of the time given or assigned to me, and I have never once had an issue or running out of things to say or do, or found myself out of material with more than 5 minutes to go. And on that last point, audience members or staff in training would much prefer to finish up 5 minutes early than be kept 5 minutes or more after the scheduled time, as the speaker or trainer rushes to jam a few last nuggets of information down their throats! Trust me.

So in closing this article I just want to say to those that may have made the same mistake as I did those many years ago, to not feel bad. I can share with you a cool Japanese saying that will make you feel better: “Saru mo ki kara otchiru.” What is the translation? “Sometimes even monkeys fall out of trees!”

To your success!

Coach Ric


Canada's 1st Communication Coach - TEDx Speaker - 3V COMMUNICATIONS Founder/ Coach/Trainer - YEDI Program Advisor/Instructor - NCCA Founder/Executive Director - BJJ blue belt - Trekkie forever! 
I've been blogging about interpersonal and business communication skills, public speaking, body language, ESL issues etc. since 2006.  Here's my popular blog, and my recent TEDx Talk "The Long Life of First Impressions."

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