Top tips for new business presentations

I’ve been thinking a lot about documents lately and what a missed opportunity they often become in the new business process. Much of this will be second nature to most of you  – feel free to look away now, but I’m convinced that for many, lack of time, or a preoccupation with the detail means we lose sight of what’s important.
So let’s start with the big one. There has been much written about the tyranny of powerpoint. We all know the dangers of those little white slides. The need to fill them up, to pour out our thinking until it becomes a stream of consciousness, neatly chopped into rectangular boxes.
Cathartic for you, possibly. But what about your audience? Guy Kawasaki created the 10:20:30 rule for powerpoint presentations.  No more than 10 slides, no more than 20 minutes long and a font size no smaller than 30pt.
This is a tough regime, but his points are valid. Putting yourself in the shoes of your audience is imperative. My tips would be as follows:

  • DON’T start writing your presentation in powerpoint/keynote. It will restrict your thinking and you’ll get bogged down with the detail too quickly. Instead find a large piece of paper or whiteboard and just start scribbling. This will give you far greater freedom to organise your thoughts. Only once you have organised your presentation content and messaging, should you switch on your computer!


  • PLAN. Make a list of all of the images, statistics, logos, testimonials or case studies that you are likely to use and don’t have to hand and figure out how to get hold of them. Ask the people you need to ask, delegate where you can. You don’t need the stress at the eleventh hour.


  • ALWAYS start with an agenda. It sets the scene for the presentation and manages expectations.


  • SIGNPOST. Using the structure set out in your agenda, include title slides or other navigation techniques to break up your presentation. It will help your audience to understand where they are in the proceedings.


  • LESS IS MORE. The more slides you have and the more you have on each slide, the less able your audience is to follow. You will fall into the trap of reading from the slide, talking to the screen and not the people in the room. They in turn are trying to listen to what you are saying and read the text on the slide all at the same time. It doesn’t work! Remember that your slides are there to support you and not the other way around. Keep bullet points short and do what Mr Kawasaki says – no less than 30pt please.


  • USE BUILDS WITH CAUTION. The animation features that powerpoint and keynote offer should generally be left well alone, however, builds can be a useful way to bring in key facts or images one at a time allowing you to verbally expand on each without the audience being distrated by the next point. But do use sparingly and go for the simple ‘appear’ option rather than ‘fly in’, ‘cascade’ or any other migraine inducing function available.


  • BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU LEAVE BEHIND. Your presentation document serves a vastly different purpose to a document that is designed to be read. If you are taking hard copies as a leave behind or sending on a PDF version after the meeting, be aware that the same document will not represent you effectively. Imagine going to see a play. On its own, your presentation is no more than the programme and the set. It may be beautifully designed but without the actor on stage the meaning is lost. Now imagine the book of the play. This is what your leave behind document needs to be. Sounds excessive? Well maybe, but every document you send is an opportunity to sell yourself and once you hand it over, in person or by email, it may be forwarded to the board, or to procurement, or anyone else in the business, none of whom where in the original presentation and who will be judging you on only half the story. So have long form copy versions of your documents prepared which can be read and will make sense, without you in the room.

Good luck out there!