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Are Longer Presentations More Boring?

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Are Longer Presentations More Boring?

When a presentation seems to drag on forever, is it actually longer on average than a more interesting talk?

· Writers' Zone ·
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We've all been in speeches or presentations that seem to drag on and on forever. Is this simply a perception driven by the dullness of the oration, or is there actually something in it?

Imperial College London's Robert M. Ewers conducted an informal experiment where he sat in on 50 talks, and timed each of them to determine their length. He then made a snap judgement after around 4 minutes of the presentation as to whether the speech was boring or not, before then checking to see if the "boring" speeches were longer than the more interesting ones.

It's not entirely scientific, of course, and does depend heavily on Ewers' subjective opinion on the interest of each speech, but the small sample did indeed reveal that boring speeches were 1 minute and 30 seconds longer on average than interesting speeches (which clocked in at 11 minutes 42 seconds).

"For every 70 seconds that a speaker droned on, the odds that their talk had been boring doubled," he writes in Nature. "For the audience, this is exciting news. Boring talks that seem interminable actually do go on for longer."

Interesting speeches

Whilst the findings aren't hugely scientific, they shouldn't be that surprising, either. An interesting speaker is likely to put themselves in the shoes of their audience, and to therefore think about what is really important to them and how much is feasible to absorb in one sitting.

A good speaker will also rehearse considerably so that they will strive to be punctual and not waste the time of their audience. Ewers himself suggests that speakers wishing to make their presentation more interesting could try to introduce their objectives into their speech as early as possible, and to then focus only on the most pertinent information.

"They should avoid trite explanations, repetition, getting bogged down by irrelevant minutiae and passing off common knowledge as fresh insight," Ewers concludes.

Topics:
speeches ,public speaking ,presentations ,writers zone

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