Before all the other important stuff you might want to know about presenting, the single most important step is a brutal one:

“Kill your darlings.”

This phrase, often attributed to author William Faulkner, means get rid of the things that mean a lot to you, but that are harming the greater good of your presentation. 

Your presentation probably describes a key part of your work, your blood, sweat, and tears. It’s tempting to get up there and talk about all the little details that you think are important.

And those details are important, but they’re important to you, not to the mission of your presentation. They are not important to the second of The First Three Questions (what do I want my audience to do), and so they need to be cut out of your presentation.

Not having the discipline to kill your darlings leads to weak presentations and bored audiences. A good rule of thumb is that if your presentation is taking up more than 66% of the time allotted to you, you haven’t killed enough of your darlings.

Killing your darlings will be difficult for you, but your audience will appreciate it.

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life managing inventory levels for wholesale import companies and forecasting labor costs for national retail chains. Since 2006, he has been teaching professionals how to present themselves and their companies better. His clients work for companies like Citibank, Microsoft, 3M, P&G, and HP.