Remember the end of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, when she finally gets her break on the late night show? She delivers a hilarious and relatable “tight five.”

That’s a full five minutes – but just five minutes – packed with her best material.

It’s the highlight reel of what could be a full 45-minute set.

Comedians have a tight five.

Why not you?

Ahead of a workshop with a corporate client, one of the employees sent me this question:

What’s the size and timing recommended for a executive presentation?

Good Q, right?

My first answer is: Ask the executives! Or ask someone who has a load of experience presenting in front of them.

But I get it – sometimes you work in an environment where those answers don’t come easy. Everyone’s got a Todd, who’s liable to tell you the wrong answer cause he’s looking out for himself.

So my second answer is:

Your boss, like the audience in a comedy club, has high hopes but a lot going on, so really needs you to keep your presentation focused and clear. Long enough to say what needs to be said but short enough to preserve their schedules and stay on the agenda.

That would be a Tight Five.

No way can you cram everything you want to say into five minutes – pick the highlights, just like Mrs. Maisel.

In two sentences, lay out the context and background.

Like “We conducted the annual survey of 6,000 randomly-selected employees asking about any fraud, waste, or abuse they witnessed in the past year. This is our third year running the survey.”

Skip the mini lecture on random selection. Don’t talk (yet) about how you had to change some of the survey questions this year.

Then pop right into the 3-5 big takeaways.

Takeaway delivery goes better when you put your main point in a whole sentence at the top of your slide.

Instead of this:

Do this:

I was once in Orlando (I know, I know) for a training with the rising stars at Verizon. At the start of the day, one of Verizon’s chief officers leaned on the table at the front of the room and emphasized how much he wanted the group to pick up what I was gonna lay down in the dataviz workshop.

He said “In our executive meetings, we want to see your claim at the top of your slide and the evidence that supports that claim.”

Straight from the highly-compensated horse’s mouth.

Make a claim.

Then show the data that backs it up.

Notice that he didn’t say “Start with your background and literature review.” Nope. Skip directly to the claims.

However. Once in a while, your claims and takeaways are bad news. Counter to what the execs had hoped. In those times, chances are higher that they’ll start to question your methods. Because if your methods were sloppy, maybe this bad news is incorrect (their fingers are crossed under the table).

Or they love it and want to know even more, like how do the findings change when we disaggregate by race? By gender? By who saw Barbie vs Oppenheimer over the summer?

OR… the next person on the agenda hasn’t arrived yet and you have a few bonus minutes to say more.

Just in case, I’d extend this answer to be:

Tight Five, Then Ten

Have 10 backup minutes prepped in the event you get the opportunity to dig deeper.

No matter whether you make it 5 minutes or 15, I’d save one slide at the end to suggest recommendations and next steps.

If your suggestions are simple and uncontroversial, you need to reserve maybe 30 seconds to whip through these.

If your suggestions need input, I’d shift the time allocation of the overall presentation and spend 15 seconds on the background, 1:45 on the key takeaways, and 3 minutes to get input on the next steps.

One last bit of advice: Since the time will FLY and you’ll feel the pressure to talk fast, regulate yourself with your breath. Remember to breathe. I used to stick a post it to my laptop that said BREATHE during big presentations. It’ll help you stay calm and make you look like a pro in control.

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