Developing and delivering a five-minute presentation seems an easy enough task at first — until you realize the condensed format actually requires significantly more efficiency, focus, and attention to detail than longer presentation types.
When there’s less time to get your point across, every second counts more, and there’s no time for improvisation. While short presentations can be unexpectedly challenging to create, when done correctly, they can be more impactful than longer presentations.
Five minutes is just enough time for you to present a compelling narrative about one topic, without any filler or fluff. The time limit forces you to pack as much valuable information as possible into your presentation while maintaining a coherent structure.
The shorter format also encourages audiences to pay more attention.
But how can you ensure your short presentation accomplishes everything it needs to within just five short minutes? We’ve put together an (appropriately condensed) guide on five-minute presentations to help you get started.
How many words are in a 5-minute presentation?
A five-minute presentation is approximately 700 words long. The average person speaks 120 to 160 words a minute, which means the average five-minute presentation is 600 to 800 words.
To calculate your own personal speaking speed (words per minute, or WPM):
Make an audio recording of yourself speaking for one minute.
The number of words you spoke in that minute is your personal WPM.
When constructing a longer presentation, you might be more concerned about transitions and keeping the audience engaged with more extensive narrative elements.
In a short presentation, everything you say should directly tie back to your central premise and further advance your main point. Keeping a tight scope and using your words carefully ensures your time isn’t wasted, and the audience leaves with a clear, singular takeaway.
How many slides are in a 5-minute presentation
Generally speaking, you’ll want to stick to just five or six slides for a five-minute presentation, but there’s no set limit on how many yours will require. Depending on your subject matter, you may have up to twenty slides and spend about 10 or 15 seconds on each
More important than your slide count is what each slide contains. It’s a good rule of thumb to keep your slides simple and focused on visuals (instead of text) for a presentation of any length. This becomes especially important when you’re dealing with a condensed presentation window
Trying to cram in as much information as possible within a short timeframe can be tempting. Resist the urge. Instead, focus on simple, clean visuals that (once again) all tie back to your central premise.
If you’re looking for a starting point for your five-minute presentation, we’ve created a basic outline below that you can use to organize your initial thoughts in the planning stage.
You can devote one slide to each section or multiple slides if you want to break them down further.
Feel free to depart from the structure depending on the content or format of your presentation. Just remember not to give your audience too much to chew on. The key here is — you guessed it — tying every slide back to one central idea.
1. Cover Slide (What)
Your cover slide needs to answer the question that’s on everyone’s mind: What’s in it for me?
“The most common mistake that people make when creating a short presentation is not establishing the who, what, when, where, why rightaway,” said professional pitch deck creator Malcolm Lewis.
“People will mentally check out within 10 seconds.” The job of your cover slide is to establish context immediately. Your first slide should serve as an introduction to the topic of your presentation, and it should be captivating.
Specificity is your friend. Avoid general introductions, for example, “How to refine your craft.” It’s unclear what this presentation is about and who it concerns. A clear title helps your audience understand the focus and prevents you from going too broad with your topic.
2. Thesis Slide (What, Continued)
Common convention might state to briefly introduce yourself at the beginning of your presentation, but you should actually jump directly into your thesis.
Why? You have the greatest amount of attention at the beginning of your presentation.
This slide should answer the question: If listeners only remember ONE thing from my presentation, what do I want it to be?
Writing a thesis benefits both your audience and you. Establishing a one-sentence summary of your presentation forces you to articulate and focus your message, which will help you craft the rest of your slides that support this point.
To write your thesis, “start at the end and ask yourself what you want to accomplish in 5 minutes,” said leadership communications coach Nausheen I. Chen. “Keep it super simple: the fewer the goals of the presentation, the higher the chance of you achieving them.”
In Nausheen’s five-minute presentation, she explicitly states the most important takeaway for viewers at the beginning of her presentation:
Most presentations can be boiled down to a problem you’ve identified, solved, or are in the process of solving. You’ve identified what listeners should care about in the thesis statement, and now your problem slide should tell them why.
Don’t be afraid to frame your problem in a negative light. Audience members will be more motivated to listen if you steer them awayfrom a problem, rather than helping them achieve a better outcome. Think of this as “pain over gain.”
Here’s an example of a short presentation on the benefits of quitting caffeine:
Gain — you could ultimately have more energy by quitting caffeine.
Pain — your caffeine intake is hurting your energy levels, not helping.
After you’ve identified the problem, deliver on the solution.
4. Solution/Analysis Slide (How)
Now that your problem has been introduced, tell your audience what they need to know about this topic. In shorter presentation formats, you’ll want to focus less on the details and more on the big-picture items.
Ask yourself: What does your audience need to know about this topic? Anything that falls into the “nice to know” category can be cut and delivered to stakeholders in a follow-up email after the meeting.
5. About You — Optional (Who)
Does your five-minute presentation need an “about me” slide? Only if it reinforces your thesis and gives authority to your words.
For example, a short presentation about cancer screenings would be more credible if a doctor was the presenter. However, given the brevity of your presentation, you can find a creative way to lend that same authority to what you’re saying without shortening your message.
It might be possible to achieve the same authority by a doctor wearing a white coat for a presentation in real-life and adding the “Dr.” prefix to their name on Zoom.
6. Conclusion (What’s Next)
The conclusion slide allows you to coherently end your presentation and summarize the important takeaway points for your audience. Don’t skimp on your conclusion just because it’s a short presentation — it’s the last thing your audience will hear from you.
On this slide, include contact information so interested audience members can follow up. Then, end with a zinger. Reinforce the points you presented and ultimately make your presentation more memorable.
5-Minute Presentation Example
While we weren’t in the room when these presentations were originally given — and therefore can’t confirm with 100% certainty that they ran for only five minutes.
However, these decks clock in at under 15 slides and use a simple format to convey a problem and solution.
How to Create a 5-Minute Presentation Your Audience Will Love
Here are some best practices to follow when crafting a short presentation.
1. Make it about your audience.
A presentation may feel like it’s about you, but it’s actually about your audience.
“To know how to create a real transformation in a short amount of time, you need to know who you are speaking to and have a sense of what they know and don’t know,” said Learning Experience Designer Lyssa Leigh Jackson.
Lyssa encourages presenters to clearly define what your audience will walk away knowing and feeling.
2. Don’t make vague or generalized points.
It’s easy to become overambitious or overwhelmed by the information you want to present. Choosing a single idea to focus on gives you clarity when designing your speech and allows you to cut extraneous details. It also provides a narrative structure that your audience can more easily grasp
One of the most frequently made mistake with short presentations is being vague. Malcolm Lewis advises you to combat that by leveraging data: “Get specific with examples and numbers. Be as precise as possible.”
This presentation slide from Lyssa Leigh Jackson explicitly writes data and also visualizes it with the funnel graphic:
Your presentation is your chance to shine — but the shorter format also means that each point you make will be more visible, memorable, and, consequently, more vulnerable to scrutiny
Take the time to thoroughly research the subject of your presentation and ensure every point you make is:
Tailored for your audience.
Jargon-free and easy to understand
With a strong command of your subject matter, your delivery will also be more confident and convincing.
4. Appeal to how people learn best: stories.
A story can give meaning to your presentation and elevate it to more than just facts, figures, and flashy slides. Building your presentation around a simple, easy-to-understand narrative makes your content more digestible.
Your presentation will only last for a few minutes, but the story you tell needs to stick around in your audiences’ minds for longer — an stories naturally help humans understand and retain information more easily.
Be warned that an anecdotal story must be condensed and well-outlined, or you risk using up your precious 300 seconds with a run-on story. You can manage this in your practice sessions.
5. Don’t skip that practice session.
“Short presentation” doesn’t translate into “spontaneous presentation.” From CEOs to interns, everyone will benefit from practicing their short presentations in advance, no matter how confident they are.
Practicing your presentation will help you:
Practicing your talking points.
Ensuring the correct length of presentation.
Overall confidence in presentation style.
Film a run-through of your presentation on your phone and watch it back to help you self-critique.
Try to deliver much (or all) of your presentation by heart. Your delivery will be more natural, allowing you to develop a stronger connection with your audience. And once nerves hit, you’ll have the muscle memory to fall back on and carry you through the presentation.
If you need to speed through your slides to squeeze everything into a five-minute window, you’re likely trying to do too much. Consider cutting your slides and talking points so you don’t risk getting caught off.
6. Relax, and don’t rush.
In addition to working out timing issues, practicing will also help you feel less nervous in the moment and maintain your normal WPM.
It’s natural to speak more quickly when you’re public speaking, but prepare enough to feel relaxed throughout your presentation so that you don’t speed through your talking points.
Staying focused on your presentation (and not getting distracted by nerves) will improve your delivery and give you more confidence, even if you’re anxious about public speaking.
7. Expect your presentation to be shared.
Every presentation should be created with the expectation that it will be viewed on its own.
It’s standard practice to follow up presentations with an email that includes an attached slide deck. That email might very well be viewed by someone who missed your initial meeting, or forwarded to someone new altogether.
For this reason, don’t put sensitive or private information on the slides. Make sure that each slide presents enough information for viewers to understand the big bullet points of your short presentation.
This positive trend means your work can live beyond the initial presentation. Consider sharing the link yourself on your LinkedIn profile to highlight your work.
5-Minute Presentation Sample
These five-minute presentation samples all explore different presentation settings and narratives that will help inspire you as you create your own presentation.
1. Speak as a Leader Bootcamp Welcome.
This five-minute presentation by Nausheen I. Chen perfectly balances minimalism with informative text. The design uses background color to help create contrast within the presentation, and the final call-to-action is unique and actionable.
What we like:This slide deck is for a more interactive presentation, providing clear objectives and structure for the audience to follow along and feel comfortable. The value they can expect from the presentation is communicated and delivered
2. Digital Finest Pitch Deck
This high-contrast five-minute presentation design by Gabe Marusca uses color to tell a story and bold text to engage the audience.
Where some presenters would’ve put an “about me” slide at the end, Gabe kept the spotlight directly on the viewer by showcasing client success testimonials.
What we like:This slide deck follows the classic problem–solution–results storyline. His conclusion slide summarizes the main point and provides a clear takeaway for audiences
3. Women in the Workplace Briefing
This presentation grabs viewers’ attention immediately with powerful statistics and continues to articulate talking points with data.
While the presentation likely didn’t discuss every graph and data point in-depth, it paints a persuasive picture. This creates a highly valuable resource even when viewed independently of the presentation.
What we like: This data-driven slide deck illuminates problems women face in the workplace, with only two slides proposing solutions at the end. If the goal of your presentation is to wake your audience up to a problem that’s in their hands to fix, follow this example to drive your point home
4. Legacy Speaker Tour
This colorful presentation by Jasmin Haley uses bold text and engaging imagery to introduce a 1-day workshop.
The inspiring message and colorful design reflect the energy of a live workshop, and the minimal text complements the bold imagery on each slide.
What we like:This is an excellent example of an image-focused presentation. If you want the focus to be on you as the speaker, with the images amplifying your message, find fitting images to accompany you point by point.
You Know Your Audience Best
When creating your five-minute presentation, think about your audience and craft it to appeal to them. The information you decide to highlight and how you frame it will vastly differ depending on who your presentation is meant for.
It’s natural to be nervous going into your presentation, especially if you don’t like public speaking or fear it, but with enough consideration and practice, you’ll be a master of whatever subject you hope to present.