This may sound harsh, but you’re not that special that when you get up to speak everyone is captivated the entire time, has the patience to sit through your lengthy deck of slides, and will be perfectly content to allow you to run over your allotted time. You know how hard it is to be 100% attentive, and you know you don’t like it when other speakers kill you with more slides than you could possibly remember and talk for longer than scheduled. It’s quite likely that you are more often the audience than you are the speaker, and so consider yourself an expert on what audiences like and don’t like.

The single best guideline for any speaker to use in preparing for a talk is The Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Plan and choreograph your presentations accordingly …

If you don’t like or can’t pay attention to a screen with dense text slides in a darkened room for a prolonged period of time, then don’t do it to your audience;

If you can’t sit through a 50-minute talk that isn’t broken up with visuals or video or interaction, then your audience can’t either;

If you get lost during talks when speakers ramble and provide no guidance as to where they are going or what their point is, then your audience will be lost without your guidance;

If you like stories and anecdotes, then your audience will like them too;

If you like someone who is brief and succinct, then your audience will like that too; and

If you like speakers who stay more connected with their audience than with the lectern or screen, then your audience will appreciate that as well.

Your preferences are your own best litmus test for what your audience might like, so remember that!

Beth Levine