Death by PowerPoint: How Hitting the 20-Minute Presentation Mark Can Help Your Business

PresentationsPowerPoint presentations represent a sometimes necessary evil in the business world. Many people find sitting through an hour-long presentation boring and new research suggests that maybe the time frame is what keeps people holding on to this belief. Instead of the hour of power that is most espoused by businesses, behavioral psychologists recommend that people replace them with 20-minute presentations.

In her new book, 100 Things Every Presenter Need to Know About People, author Susan Weinschenk introduces the idea that some organizations limit their speaking gurus to 20 minutes or less.

According to the author, there’s actually a scientific reason for this. It boils down to retention. People remember more if they learn in 20-minute chunks with short breaks of about 5-minutes between each 20-minute session. More importantly they remember the new information longer. In a study done by Dr. Maureen Murphy, test subjects following this presentation model were said to have retained the information up to a month later.

Additionally, participants in the study also reported enjoying the presentations more. If you’re finding that your employees are practically falling asleep during presentations, this may be one reason why. Shorter is better in this case.

The results of this information impact not only people who run traditional businesses, but also entrepreneurs, who must still make presentations in order to win new clients or investors or to train new employees and to get old ones up-to-speed on new procedures.

For those who’d like to perfect their presentation skills, Weinschenk has some pretty simple pointers. She suggests that would-be presenters take their bowl of popcorn, their mug of coffee, and watch a few of the presentations on the website The talks are interesting and are given by people who are the best and the brightest in their fields. Weinschenk maintains that a person can learn a lot by watching how other people make presentations.

Finally, the author encourages people to remember that the 20-minute rule applies to more than just PowerPoint. It can be used with any kind of activities, interactions between people and other business-related exercises as well.