The Minimum Viable Presentation

Most presentations contain far too much information. Here's what to do about it.

The Minimum Viable Presentation
Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Aesence, an inspirational platform that explores minimalist aesthetics.

Most presentations contain far too much information.

The presenter sets off without a clear and specific destination. So they wander all over the map, covering too much detail, and the presentation comes to an abrupt and unsatisfying end. In other words, it sounds like this:

A piece of information…another piece of information… and another one…and another one… and another one…. and yet another one… and so on and so on… THE END”.

This leaves the audience overwhelmed, confused, unsure how to respond, or bored.

As a presenter, it’s tempting to cram as much information as possible into the time you have available. But more information does not equal more value. And this approach runs the risk of not making anything memorable.

The best presentations hit a sweet spot that leaves your audience wanting more- they’ll want to ask questions, follow up with you, and take action.

Enter the Minimum Viable Presentation, or MVP. An MVP is tightly focused on one point- one piece of value- which it delivers. It does not do anything else. You make your point in the shortest time you can, with the minimum of resources. It is short and sweet.

Here’s a fantastic example of an MVP- a 4.5 minute TEDx talk on how to use a paper towel (TEDx talks can be up to 18 minutes long):

How to use one paper towel: Joe Smith

The Minimum Viable Presentation is related to the “Minimum Viable Product” idea from Lean Startup methodology. An MVP in that context is a slimmed down product that gets the job done: nothing more, nothing less.

What both MVPs have in common is a laser focus on satisfying the specific needs of the audience. The MVP is then tweaked over successive iterations to serve those needs even better.

The Minimal Viable Presentation stands out because it takes confidence and discipline. Using less of the time and resources than you have available, and using them highly efficiently to make your point, is unusual and your audience will notice.

The first time you do it, you’ll feel a bit naked, but your audience will appreciate the craft.

They will remember you for shaping your talk around one core point.

But you must make sure that it's “viable”. An MVP must be well designed and delivered to leave an impression. It’s not enough to stand up, blurt out some information, and sit down again. You may need to make your one point a few different ways to get it across.

And, of course, sometimes an MVP isn’t enough. You’ll sometimes need something longer and more detailed. But the discipline of MVP will make all your presentations better.

So what’s the one thing that you have to make sure they remember?

And how can you help them remember that one thing: nothing more, nothing less?

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