Skills to speak/write short

Have you found that it’s easier to speak or write SHORT than LONG? Speakers must be tight with timing to not disadvantage the next presenters. So we edit, prune, prepare, practise. But try 5 minutes! 

When chosen to pitch a manuscript at Byron Bay Writers Festival I determined to give it my all.  And a picture tells 1000 words, right? My PowerPoint presentation shone with photographs and evocative music. I bought my own data projector to avoid tech meltdown, enlisted a techie to help me craft a streamlined presentation. 

Heed advice from experts

At a workshop a few days before, Stephanie, Jill and Lisa critiqued us and gave invaluable advice; it was challenging, honest and brutal where needed. They looked askance when I arrived lugging tech gear and props.

  • No PowerPoint. What if there’s a glitch, you might waste half your precious five minutes. ‘Couldn’t I cut back the slides to just a few?’ (Whimpers) ‘Please?’
  • No, because attention is divided between your face and the screen. Just speak.(Tactful but firm). Hmm, good point.

Learning to let go


They were right. This, my first pitch, was an exercise in letting go, in listening, in faith. I’d be foolish to ignore astute, sound, expert advice, so booked a coaching session with Stephanie. She tolerated my minimalist PowerPoint version, then reached for my laptop. Cut, cut, cut, paste. (‘Can’t I keep that story?’) Cut, add, paste, cut. A tight but flowing version emerged. My style had become staccato in its efforts to save valuable seconds: I had opted for two-syllable words as opposed to four. Her priority was clarity. She brought my pitch to five minutes exact. 

On the day 

I spoke first of five strong contenders. Slow deep breathing beforehand. As I do. Added a few ad libs. So the bell caught me off guard. (With PowerPoint, I note the number of the last slide so I can skip content if necessary.) I’d indicated the usual four-minute mark on my text, but forgot my own advice: 

• ‘Tab sections/sentences that can be dropped if time runs short.’ 

My revised pitch gave freedom to express through verbal, facial and body language. Though not the winner, I emerged positive, wiser and grateful. I value the opportunity to be heard, and to learn in the process. 

Nothing is wasted

I’ve since filmed it into a book trailer that’s up on YouTube. My next presentation for my book-in-progress Burn My Letters allows 30 minutes – ample scope for slides!
It will be at the Institute for Migration in Finland in May.

Prepare to shine

Prepare – get feedback – revise – get coaching – prepare, prepare, prepare. 

I’m available for one-on-one coaching – or I recommend Stephanie!

P.S. Three of my books are available on Amazon kindle including Speak Out.