Table of Contents:

1. The Goal & Style of Tiny Talks

The primary goal of Tiny Talks isn’t to educate in the raw, academic sense that most other presentation-based events go for.

This is because our events are looking to feature presentations on very different topics than what an event like a TED conference would feature. For example, you’ll find plenty of TED talks about:

  • Motivational and self-help topics
  • Breakthroughs in science and technology
  • Best practices in business
  • The latest thinkings on global issues

In contrast, our events will feature presentations on things like:

  • Creative passions
  • Uncommon hobbies or pursuits
  • Thought-provoking topics of interest
  • Unique experiences (whether from a particular moment or an entire lifetime)

While Tiny Talks in any of these areas will undoubtedly leave audience members learning something new, the point is more so to inspire and entertain rather than to educate (and to do so primarily through the means of storytelling).

Note: you’ll be given a glowing introduction noting 1 or 2 impressive accolades or accomplishments before coming on stage so that you don’t need to say any of that yourself! I’ll also be able to share any promotional messages before/after your talk, i.e. an organization you’re involved with that you want to ask for support, or to checkout your book or a show you put on, etc, so just make sure you let us know ahead of time what that would be.

2. Presentation Format Rules

Maintaining an audience’s attention throughout an entire presentation is far from easy. That’s why we devised a specific format and structure for the presentations at our event. The four rules for Tiny Talks are:

  • A total presentation time <10 minutes (see previous email from Jon for exact length guidelines). We do this because most people’s attention spans are shorter than they’d like to admit.
  • An accompanying slide deck. We do this in order to help the audience visualize the story and/or what’s being described.
  • Slides that auto-advance on a timed basis (no remote clicker to toggle forward/backward on). We do this to make sure talks stays on track and to help make sure speakers don’t get stuck on side tangents.
  • No individual slide playing for more than 60 seconds. We do this to prevent i.e. a 6 minute talk with only 2 or 3 slides, which would kind of ruin the point of having slides. (And conversely – there is no minimum slide time length, i.e. a slide could be as short as 1 second, if you’d like).

Beyond that, it’s completely up to you in terms of the number of slides, how long each individual one plays for (and not all have to be the same, i.e. one can be 15 seconds, the next 30), the visuals picked for the slides, etc.

Note about Text: while we don’t have a hard rule, we ask that you please avoid the use text on slides. This is because slides are meant to be visual; the only words we want the audience to focus on are the ones coming out of your mouth! However, there are exceptions – i.e. maps with very simple labels/legends, ultra simple charts/graphs, something as random as a photo that contains a newspaper clipping, etc.

3. Software Setup for Auto-Advancing Slides

In order to setup and practice the timing of your slides, you’ll need to utilize certain features of your presentation software. We’ll walk through how to do so on the 3 most popular options.

  • PowerPoint (Paid)
  • Apple Keynote (Free for Mac users)
  • Google Slides (Free but requires a 3rd party browser extension)

Microsoft PowerPoint Setup for Tiny Talks

To setup auto-advancing slides in Microsoft PowerPoint:

  1. In the top navigation bar, go to “Transitions”.
  2. Locate the Advance Slide area, which should have two options: “On Mouse Click” and “After: XX:XX”.
  3. Un-check the “On Mouse Click” checkbox.
  4. Click the “After:” checkbox then set its time input field (in seconds) to i.e. “30.00” or “15.00” and hit Enter.

Here’s a quick video walkthrough of this.

While you can set each individual slide’s length this way, you can also click the “Apply to All” button to apply the same length to all slides.

Apple Keynote Setup for Tiny Talks

To setup auto-advancing slides in Apple Keynote:

  1. In the navigation here, click on “Animate”.
  2. In the “Start Transition” dropdown, select “Automatically”.
  3. In the “Delay” input field, set it to i.e. “15.00” or “30.00” and hit Enter.

While you can set each individual slide’s length this way, you can also apply the same length to all slides by selecting/highlighting all slides in the lefthand Slides Pain (by clicking the first slide, holding down Shift, then clicking the last slide) and then applying those settings accordingly.

Google Slides Setup for Tiny Talks

Unfortunately, Google Slides by default has very limited abilities for auto-advancing slides.

The only thing you can do out-of-the-box with Google Slides is set ALL slides to auto-advance with the exact same length. Additionally, that length can only be either every 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 15, 30 or 60 seconds.

Luckily though there’s a solution to these limitations – a 3rd party browser extension called Slides Timer. In order to install and use it though, you need to be using the Google Chrome browser. After you activate it, here’s an example to show how it works:

  1. On slide 1, insert a new text box.
  2. Put this exact text inside of it: <<0:15-+>>
  3. Move the text box out of the way, i.e. top or bottom right corner.
  4. Copy the text box and paste on every other slide.

The result: when you enter Slideshow mode, you now have a timer on each slide that counts down from 15 seconds and, when it hits zero, auto-advances to the next slide.

From there, you can edit the time length for each slide to the length of your choice, just swap out “15” with whatever.

Note: while it might be helpful early on to practice with the timer on each slide being visible, you should transition at some point to making the timer invisible.

4. Tips for Making Presentations

  • Order of operations
  • Structuring a presentation
  • Choosing when to add slides
  • Finding free-to-use images
  • Repeating images (with changes)
  • Practice

Order of Operations

The most important tip for making  a great Tiny Talk is to figure out what you want to say BEFORE working on your slide deck. Your slides should fit your talk, rather than your talk having to fit your slides.

We highly recommend that you practice giving your talk in-full without even touching the slide making process. Once you have your talk down, and have a general idea on how long it will be, THEN focus on building a slide deck that matches the various moments of your talk.

Structuring a Presentation

Whatever the core material of your presentation is, there are a few universal elements worth including that will grab your audience’s attention and make it flow (and conclude) like a single, cohesive story:

  • Hook – a particularly interesting anecdote or piece of info to start off with.
  • Setup – some sense of context needed to better understand the core material.
  • Pay Off – the juiciest, core piece(s) of your talk.
  • Reflection – to briefly wrap things up / put it into perspective.

Each are worth including, even if only very briefly.

When trying to decide on a hook, try to think of something that makes an audience wonder a question like “how did that happen?”, “what lead to that?” or “what happened next?”. A few examples include:

  • The moment right before or after the presentation’s climax – i.e. the thoughts running through your head right before or after a dramatic experience.
  • A wild predicament you got yourself into – i.e. that time you ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere while scouting film locations.
  • A cool story you might tell at a party – i.e. that time Shaq showed up to one of your photoshoots.
  • An embarrassing story you can now laugh about – i.e. that time you accidentally performed in front of a crowd with your fly down.

Choosing When to Add Slides

Once you know what you’ll talk about, map out the various points along the way, then try to think of an image that would help visualize each.

Additionally, it can be incredibly helpful to use your slides as “checkpoints” or visual cues for what you intend to be talking about at any given point. This can be a huge help for the sake of pacing.

Finding Free-to-Use Images

While photos from a personal library are ideal and can make up the majority of slides for some presentation topics (i.e. examples of your various paintings, progress pics of a DIY project, etc.), a lot of presentations will need at least an image or two from elsewhere.

Here are 3 places to find free-to-use images for your presentation:

  • Free Stock Photo Sites (i.e. Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels) – no attribution required.
  • Generative A.I. Image Tools (i.e. Stable Diffusion and Midjourney) – while A.I. generated images are free to use (without attribution), the tools that generate them may not be. While Stable Diffusion is free, Midjourney currently starts at $10/mo.
  • Google Images and Flickr – both sites have a Creative Commons search filter to find images free for public use. However, there are different types of Creative Commons licenses – some may grant permission for your intended use, some may not and some may allow it but only with proper attribution given (i.e. at the bottom of the slide). Read more here and here and make sure to check each individual image’s license before using it.

NOTE: make sure you have the right to use any photos from online sources, and that you properly attribute them if needed.

Repeating Images (with Changes)

If you believe a particular image acts as a good visual aid for a longer block of time (i.e. 40+ seconds), one way you can get the best of all worlds is to repeat it in back-to-back slides, but make some type of change on the second time around.

For example, imagine you have a map of a state park and you’re telling the story of your trip through it. You could repeat the image but overlay an arrow on top of it the second time around that emphasizes a key point, like this: First Slide, Second Slide.


The only real way to get your timing down is to practice giving it out loud. A few practice rounds, especially in front of another person or over the phone, will provide the most clarity on how long you want your slides to play for and when you might want to add/remove any in particular.

5. Final Tips for Giving a Presentation

  • Notes / note cards – please do not use paper or note cards to read off of during your talk. Instead, structure your slides to act as “checkpoints” or reminders for what you should be talking about at that given time.
  • Waiting for the next slide – try to avoid pausing and waiting for the next slide to transition. It’s OK to start talking about whatever’s next in your talk, even if the audience doesn’t yet have a visual for it.