1.) When preparing your slides, always remember that PowerPoint slides are a tool designed to enhance your presentation, they are not your presentation. Your speech should be the focus. Not your slides.
2.) Your slides should NOT be a transcript of your speech with every point and sub-point. In other words, "you don't need to put all the dang words on the dang slides." I can't recall whose quote that is, but you get the point.
3.) In my experience you should always use at least 24-point type. Otherwise there will most likely be a number of people at the back of the room that can’t read your slides. If people can’t read the text on your slides, why have the text on the slides?
4.) Avoid detailed charts and graphs like the plague. If you must show a detailed chart or graph, hand it out as a full page print out. Don’t force people to try to read it on a slide. Better yet, have a slide with only the key figure or fact you want people to take away from the chart or graph.
5.) You can only convey so much information in a 20 to 30 minute presentation. Your audience will recall much less than that. The less you convey, the higher the recall – meaning the more effective your presentation. If you have a lot of supporting data, scientific data, charts and graphs, then you should prepare a white paper and upload it to your website. Then during the presentation, let the audience know that they can find the more detailed information in the white paper on your website.
There you have it. And, like most good presentations, the above rules have some repetition, or reinforcement, with number five more or less reinforcing the first four rules. So really just four simple rules to follow. That's not too much to ask, is it?
If you've been to a lot of pitch competitions you likely have been to at least a few that enforce strict time limits with a maximum number of slides allowed (sometimes five or less). These strict limits can work magic for presenters and slide decks alike - bringing out the best in them. Why? The limitations force them to become more concise, more exact. In other words, more compelling and on point.
A five-minute pitch isn’t just an expanded “About our Business” description. It is a short opener that shows how your company addresses a problem or market opportunity, why it’s unique and how it will serve your customers and make money. Your goal is not to tell the audience everything about your company or product in one sitting. The goal is to win their attention. Make them interested. Make them want to know more. The audience will then seek opportunities to ask questions or learn more about you.
Yes, to be effective within these time constraints you must distill an entire business concept down to a few minutes in front of a new audience. Make every word count but don't get bogged down in details. Save the detailed explanations for the followup questions or meetings. And keep your slide decks clean. Use big, bold text but with as few words as possible to get your point across. Use visuals wherever possible, but keep them simple yet compelling. Save the detailed, cluttered charts and graphs for more in depth conversations with those who request that information.
Now take a look at a slide deck we just completed for one of our clients for the 48 Hours in the Hub pitch competition in Boston. Five minutes, five slides. We added a sixth slide (a disclaimer slide) for the purposes of sharing the slide deck online.
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