I present a lot nowadays, about every other week I present at the University (always a new topic) and I speak in many conferences. I prepare new presentations all the time. I like it but it is a lot of work.
In Twitter somebody asked me how I fund my travelling. That is a relevant question and I will answer it too but more relevant would be how do you find all the time for preparing, travelling, and speaking. Time is money as we all know.
I decided to ask other people how long they spend preparing a presentation and I tweeted:
“How long does it take for you to prepare a new 45-60 min presentation? #curious”
Obviously it was not an easy question. I got tons of replies and several private messages. Here is a list of some of the replies in Twitter:
Replies defining the time:
- to prep a “deep tech” talk, maybe 20-40 hours. To prep an “intro” talk, twice as long.
- I’d agree with that. Then the next year tweaking it.
- around 40hrs
- I’ve spent up to 160h for keynotes. It’s good to have realistic estimates of time 🙂
- can’t beat my score, it takes more than a month to work with the best content & prepare the prezo.
- Unfortunately more than 100 hours. I always do new work so there’s a lot of research. #perfectionismsucks
- Some say it take up to 2, 4 hours per 1 slide. This covers stuff like, thinking about it/creating/putting it in context, finding pictures, reducing amount of bullet points, restructuring slides, thinking about content/goal/audience/message…
- I tend to take at least 10 hours ( some distracted by oddities that dont make it).
- A few days, after the weeks, months or years of research…
- for me, between 3 – 4 months. Most of that time is chewing on it then about a week to bring it all together
- 3-6 hours, with graphs much more
- I think around 5-8 hours for me, spread across a week.
My conclusion: preparing a 45-60 min presentation takes days. And none of the replies mentioned anything about rehearsing the presentation, which I know most of the speakers do 🙂
Replies defining the factors that affect the time:
- It definitely depends on WHAT you present and HOW. Complex topics require research and demos may be very long to prepare.
- depends on the subject. For my new matter explorations I don’t really count, but if would, it be days rather than hours.
- depends on topic and how familiar I am with the topic.
- depends on demos / research needed / how much I know about it. Sometimes just 20 minutes – sometimes 5 days!
- Depends on how long the assistant to the assistant to the assistant to the assistant to the assistant proofreader takes.
- Less time than it took to get all management and security approvals after the powerpoint was ready J
- Since I’m bad with slides it depends on idea-sometimes it’s just installing new VM and sometimes-sew a doll and buy an axe
My conclusion: the time it takes to prepare a 45-60 min presentation depends on the topic, how well you know it, whether you will include demos etc. in it and many other external factors. In general the more demos you have the more you need to prepare and the more detail and deep the presentation is the more you need to think how to explain it.
- Generally (1) much longer than I’d like, and (2) much longer than I thought it would take 🙂
- It doesn’t matter how long the presentation is, the answer to that question is still way too long! 🙂
My conclusion: it takes a LOT of time.
To my experience (based on the feedback I’ve got from my presentations and the presentations I have attended) the more time you spend with the slides the better presentation.
In the private messages people pointed out that preparing the presentation and presenting means you need to take off from work; some take vacation and some have an understanding employer allowing one to travel. Many of us are independent consultants or working for a small company meaning that the company will lose money for every hour spent for something else but the real business. Of course big companies have the same but since they have more employees it does not affect as dramatically to the revenue. If you are independent it affects directly to your own income.
Let’s assume an average presentation takes 2 days to prepare. The person is working as a consultant and charges 1000 USD/day. Preparing an average presentation would cost 2000 USD.
Next step is that the happy speaker is accepted to speak in an event, let’s say the event is 2 days. The speaker travels there for one day, attends the event for two days and travels back. 4 days, 4000 USD in total.
Then the speaker gets feedback and based on that and his/her own improvement ideas changes the slides accordingly. Let’s say 0.5 days, 500 USD.
In short: preparing a presentation and presenting it in one event costs 6500 USD. And this is to my opinion the minimum.
Conclusion: the time invested to a presentation is expensive.
Another aspect is sharing the knowledge. A lot of people see that knowledge is power, they are not willing to share what they have learned. They rather make business with the knowledge: hire me and I will fix it. This really is smart, I agree. And then some of us think that sharing makes the world a better place. We spend a lot of time learning new things and then go and share it for free with anybody who is interested in learning. Sharing is a great power for learning! Giving your knowledge for free is also a cost in a way of thinking.
Next time you attend a presentation I hope you appreciate the fact that the person presenting has spent a lot of time to prepare this presentation for YOU. Enjoy the presentation and learn as much as you can!
If you are interested in starting to present, I encourage you to do it: it is a lot of fun. BUT make sure you are willing to spend all that time to prepare the presentation,to share your knowledge with the community and be prepared to invest in the cost to travel to these conferences. Start with some local conferences or SIGs where you can try out your presentation, topic and presenting skills, to get some good feedback. Then as your confidence grows you can look to present your topics at conferences in other countries. This can be fun and very interesting, as I have found that the audiences in every country is slightly different. In some countries they constantly ask questions during the presentation, but in some countries they do not ask you any questions, even when you open the floor to questions at the end of a presentation. And do not be afraid of the feedback. Try not to take it personally but as a great way to improve both your presentation and your skills to present.
Because presenting takes a lot of time I cannot highlight enough that this time is usually away from your Family. This is what people in private messages also pointed out. Make sure you and your family are ok with the idea of you presenting. I have personally decided to take family members with me to some of my trips. That is very expensive but I see it necessary and I am willing to spend the money for it.
And finally to the original question about the funding 🙂
Most of us do not have the luxury of having an employer who could afford to both let us travel to present on work hours and pay the expenses. I am extremely lucky and happy to be an Oracle ACE Director. That position gives me the privilege to ask for funding from the Oracle ACE program for my travelling expenses. This is a wonderful program and without it I would not be able to travel and share my knowledge. Every time I would like to go and speak in an event I submit my application to the Oracle ACE Program and they either decide to fund the trip or not. If they decide to fund, my transportation and accommodation are covered. Meals, tips etc. I must pay for myself. It is also possible they reject my application because there are certain events that the Oracle ACE Program does not fund or because the budget has already been spent. In those cases I must decide if I am willing/able to fund that trip myself or if I tell the organizer that I am not able to attend. The best part of the Oracle ACE Program is that I am free to speak what I want: nobody tells me what I must say. Do you see the point? I LOVE the ACE Program and personally I think it is one of the smartest things Oracle has ever done.
I love learning new things and sharing my knowledge. I am very happy doing so. I know that I would make much more money if I didn’t share my knowledge for free, but then I could not expect others to do it either! Now I know I can always go to the community and ask for help. I always get the help and advice and nobody expects me to pay for it. Without this spirit of sharing the knowledge we would not have this wonderful community and learning would be much harder. Being part of this community is definitely worth it! I have made so many good friends in this community and part of each and every event I go to is meeting friends I do not see often enough no matter how much I travel 🙂
Thank you to my family for letting me do this even though it means I will be working all the time and travelling a lot. Thank you to my employer Miracle Finland for letting me travel and thank you to Oracle ACE Program for funding many of my trips!
I am really sorry this post turned out to be this long. I hope you were not too bored 🙂
Kent Graziano said:
Very excellent post Heli! I am sure most non-presenters have no idea what it takes with time and $$$ to give presentations.
When you figured how much it costs due to time off, you forgot to add in the cost of travel, hotel, and of course food. Someone has to pay for that. Thankfully, as you said, the Oracle ACE program helps many of us.
Another point, at least for US-based independent consultants, much of your travel expenses are tax deductible from your business income. Just make sure you bill enough so you don’t end up with negative income!
Thank you, Kent! You are right, there is plenty of other costs too but I wanted to count those people usually do not see. Everybody understands that flights and hotels cost but that is actually nothing compared to “hidden” costs.
That’s a very good post Heli. I think a lot of non-presenters have no idea how much time and effort goes into the preparation and what the financial cost can be to presenting, I personally could not do what I do without both the OTN ACED program and also a very understanding and supportive partner,
I think anyone who decides to present just to “become known” or does so with the main effort of getting more work soon stops – as the “payback” in those terms is pretty low for most of us (there are one or two exceptions!). I think most of us do it because we want to share knowledge and help.
That’s how it seems to me anyway.
Thanks you, Martin. I agree 100%. I am happy when I can help other people.
Fiona Lake said:
A timeless post, with principles that apply across different industries and globally. Thanks for writing it – I’d been thinking that I was a lot slower preparing than others. Now I know I am under-quoting! Being paid reasonably means being able to do more research and improve, the benefits of which are then passed on to others. Things people get for free are rarely valued adequately 🙂
Thank you, Fiona!