When time isn’t on your side – tackling a five-minute speech

five-minute speech

Balancing being concise with good content

Recently, I had the challenge of nailing a five-minute speech. This was within an amazing event called DisruptHR London. DisruptHR is a platform where HR professionals have the opportunity to challenge current HR practices.

The challenge for the speakers is that they ONLY have 5 minutes, and they have 20 slides which change every 15 seconds. So within that format, they need to make an impact with the audience to change current thought! Wow: what a challenge!

I was really keen to have the chance to speak at this event and pitched for a speaking slot. I was therefore delighted when I was chosen to be one of the speakers. The other speakers were all outstanding. My topic was “Stuff Marketing, find your authentic voice”.

The format was very interesting and one I was very keen to have the opportunity to try. We are used to doing ‘elevator speeches’, a one minute network speech, and public speaking, but the discipline of a 5 minute speech with the added stress of the slides changing every 15 seconds was something that would push me outside my comfort zone!! A great opportunity since I’m all for doing this. I have recorded a podcast about the whole experience. Listen here.

5 minute speech

Another challenge for a speech of this length is the content and how to craft it. With a one minute ‘pitch’ you have a concise, energised message; a longer speech, you can go into detail, but in 5 minutes you don’t have time to do this, although there has to be enough content to maintain the audience’s interest. You can’t sustain the ‘high energy’ approach you could have for a one minute pitch, but need focus and clarity with both the content AND the delivery.

I go into more detail in the podcast, but here is a summary.

How I approached the five-minute speech:

  1. I had a very clear message – and only one message.
  2. A clear call to action at the end of the speech.
  3. Clear slides – they also gave me a cue if I got muddled or lost!
  4. The slides could provide variety of moods within the speech to create ‘light and shade’ with the delivery of your speech.
  5. I wrote a script and practised, practised, practised…. I really knew it.
  6. I then practised with the slides. This freaks you; believe me! But there no pain, no gain…
  7. I prepared myself physically and mentally before the speech

Read: 8 tips for conquering presentation nerves

I also gave myself permission to feel good about myself:

  1. No one knew what I was going to say, so if I made a mistake it was OKAY
  2. Every speaker was in the same position
  3. If you don’t synch the slides it won’t be a disaster
  4. Your best will be good enough
  5. You have something to say; people will be interested

This format of speeches is an interesting one.

More than one member of the audience said how refreshing this format was; there are cases when a specific speaker at a conference is not covering a topic you are interested in, or with respect, doesn’t engage an audience. Since all of the speeches are short, the topics and speakers change regularly, so the audience remains engaged. Perhaps we should ‘disrupt’ current structures of conferences and have more speakers, speaking for shorter periods of time!

Listen to the podcast here.

I am hugely grateful to Katrina Collier who coordinated this event. It was a fabulous event and I was very honoured to be part of it. One of the other speakers desribed the five-minute speech format as  “addictive!”

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Susan Heaton Wright Contributor
Susan Heaton-Wright is a global Virtual impact, communications and speaking trainer for corporate clients. She empowers talented people to create memorable and engaging business conversations. She is the creator of the Superstar Communicator™ methodology: an international speaker; the MD of award winning music company, Viva Live Music, podcaster and a former prize winning international opera singer. She delivers virtual seminars, workshops and individual training for many companies including Astra Zeneca, Deloitte, RBS, Shell, Microsoft, AAP, Invesco, AXA, the NHS and Quintiles. She is regularly interviewed on BBC Radio Five Live; BBC2, local radios and international podcasts. In 2020, she was named as an #ialso 100 top inspirational female entrepreneur in UK.
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