How to Still Deliver When a Sales Presentation is Cut Short

BY Jessica Helinski
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Having your presentation cut short can be extremely frustrating. Whether it’s during a meeting with prospects or a speaking event with colleagues, having to end early keeps you from sharing everything you had planned. Plus, it can be a startling surprise, leaving you flustered and rushing to finish. Your audience is also shortchanged. Your message is truncated, and they typically don’t get a chance to ask questions.

Being an excellent public speaker requires planning as well as flexibility and resilience,” Deborah Grayson Riegel writes for Harvard Business Review. “Just because you don’t have as much time as you’d planned doesn’t mean you can’t have as much impact as you intended.”

How to prepare for when your presentation is cut short

While a seller doesn’t know when the situation will come up, they can prepare themselves. Grayson Reigel recommends that for each presentation, you have at least one “Plan B” ready. She shares some tips that sellers may want to consider adopting for their Plan B. 

Her first suggestion is heading into any presentation with two versions of what you plan to say. One should be the full version that you expect to deliver. The other should be a condensed version for worst-​case scenarios. She recommends that the shorter presentation be at the most, 50% of the original. And make sure that you have practiced both. If you are lucky enough to get a heads up that you need to wrap up early, have both versions rehearsed to seamlessly shift to the shorter one. “You might need to make some quick decisions about whether you still need to cut some content,” adds Grayson Reigel. “Plan to let your listeners know that you’ll provide additional context or content in writing after the meeting.”

Hit the headlines

Another tip she suggests is to select “headlines” to include. This ensures that you’re hitting the major points you want the audience to definitely know. When crafting decks, this tactic is especially important. So instead of using basic headers that summarize each slide, opt for headlines that go a bit deeper. “When you have a limited amount of time to present your findings, you can deliver an effective (albeit brief) narrative by just covering the headlines of your deck even if you don’t get to explain the details of each slide,” Grayson Reigel writes. 

She shares the following example: 

Slide header: “Q2 Sales”

Slide headline: “Q2 Sales Bounce Back after Disappointing Q1”

As you can see, in case your presentation is cut short, using headlines ensures your audience still gets some valuable information. And for even more tips on crafting effective decks that deliver, consider these suggestions

Check your behavior

Finally, when faced with this situation, be conscious of your response. Of course, you’re going to feel a range of emotions, from disappointment to even anger. But keep your cool and maintain your composure. Visibly showing your annoyance or taking it out on others won’t buy you more time. And it can hurt your professional image. 

Emotions are contagious, and negative emotions are especially so,” she advises. “Unless you want your audience to feel the tension you feel, take a deep breath or two, and lean into your current reality of how it is rather than how you wished it could be.”

And while it may not be the time to ask what went wrong, you do have a right to do so–just after things come to a close. 

While having your presentation cut short isn’t ideal, it’s a scenario sellers often encounter. Being prepared is the best chance to make the most of an unfortunate situation. Consider these tips when making your Plan B, and you’ll still be able to connect with your audience despite the shorter time slot.

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