The five-minute presentation

Five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time in which to give a presentation. But in practice, explaining detailed points in five minutes isn’t as daunting as it seems.

Think of television and radio advertisements. Advertisers get their message across in just 30 seconds. Five minutes should be fine. Nonetheless, it is important to structure your presentation carefully to ensure you make the most of the minutes you have.


The structure could be something like this:

1. Introduce yourself, ideally with a slide with your name on. Start with an attention grabber.

Five minutes isn’t a long time to build rapport with an audience, so your opening seconds are essential to draw them in to your presentation. A quick, funny story or an unusual anecdote can often work well.

2. Make one main point in the presentation and use a few visual slides to illustrate it. Outline your basic argument when you introduce the main point.

Keep the information to a very basic level of key facts. Too much information will dilute the impact of your presentation on the audience. Instead, use the time to persuade the audience of the importance of your main point.

3. Illustrate this point by breaking it down into a list of three concepts and present them on a single slide. Use the so-called ‘rule of three’. This is an age-old structure that applies in many areas – theatrical scripts use three acts, marketers use three-time repetition, and so on.

Breaking a point into three concepts gives a compelling structure to your presentation without overloading your audience. Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Presentations are no different.

4. Finish on a high point. The last item or point in a sequence of information has been shown in scientific studies to be the item people remember most. It is known as the recency effect.

End with something positive, and it’ll make your presentation all the more memorable. It’s even better if you can add an element of suspense followed by a final pay-off point or line. If you are trying to sell something, it may be necessary to include a call to action in your final minute.


Don’t use too many slides

For a five-minute presentation five slides should be the absolute maximum. Any more will mean that slides are changing quickly, which could become confusing or distracting for the audience. Visual aids are there to support your speech, not take over as the main focus of attention.

Have your equipment set up beforehand

Five minutes is plenty of time for a presentation, but if you have to spend a minute or two messing around with equipment, the amount of speaking time you have will obviously suffer.

No one wants to listen to a rushed presentation that condenses too much material into too short a space of time. Make sure all overhead projectors, microphones, laptops and so on are set up and tested well before the presentation begins.

First impressions matter

First impressions always matter when giving a presentation. In a five-minute slot that is exacerbated, as there is less time to turn a bad first impression around.

The best way to avoid this is obviously to create a good first impression. Make sure you do the basics. Introduce yourself properly, smile at the audience when you first take to the pulpit, and have open body language throughout.


A presentation is an opportunity. If you prepare properly and believe in the relevance of your subject, five minutes will be more than enough time to get your message across. In time, it may even become enjoyable.


Published On: 30th May 2011

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  1. This is really great advice. When time is the factor, zoom in on just one main point rather than stuff loads of ideas down into the audience’s brain. No point giving ten points when they can only remember one or two. The key with doing a presentation is not to shoot with bullet points, rather it is to communicate with the audience.

    Thanks for this great article.

    Luke Bong 8 Jun at 11:31 pm
  2. Maybe you should test it before. A lot of people can not really estimate the time they need for their presentation. At least try it one time before you do in front of your boss.

    Klaus Krebs 12 Jun at 9:57 am
  3. This will be very useful withing few days….

    TD 10 Mar at 5:52 pm
  4. I have to say I’ve been looking at this kind of thing all morning and this is the best one I’ve seen yet. Short, punchy, no BS, but not skimping on the most important stuff, like structure.

    Also I feel vindicated in using 3 points as my main point, so there’s always that 😉

    CD 14 Oct at 1:17 pm