How to Prepare a REALLY Short Conference Presentation (in 3 steps)

Italian fresco








You only have two minutes…make them count

I’ve noticed a trend at academic conferences over the last few years towards ‘micro presentations’:

  • Timed, two minute panel presentations, followed by Q & A
  • “Two minutes, two slides” (often as a complement to research posters).


In both cases, a presenter’s first reaction might be “How is that even possible?!” Many people consider a typical 15 minute symposium presentation to be at least 45 minutes too short.

And yet…

Broadcast advertising has demonstrated pretty convincingly that it’s possible to tell a compelling story in as little as one minute. Here’s a compelling love story told through Goggle search terms…”Parisian Love“.

In advertising, two minutes is an eternity. I’ve done my share of two minute presentations at academic conferences, and here are three steps to make yours stand out:


Step 1 (30 seconds): Foster an emotional connection

Offer a quick story illustrating the problem or issue and why the audience should care. Quick means three sentences, max.


Step 2 (90 seconds): Feed their heads

Next, you have a whole minute-and-a-half to share how you solved the problem. In five or six sentences.


Step 3 (30 seconds): Take it to the next level

What’s the bigger picture or implications for members of the audience? What could they do as a result of your research? (Try for one well-crafted call to action).


I’m not saying it’s easy to edit a major research initiative down to 120 seconds. As legendary jazz musician Charles Mingus put it, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity” [or genius].  Even two minutes offers a precious opportunity to tell your story. Make it count.


Bonus tip: Practice with a timer!





How to Write a Conference Abstract in 4 (kind of) Easy Steps




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