The Ten Pitch Deck Commandments

We’ve all experienced a presentation in our careers that encourages the mind to wander. You feel guilty, snapping your attention back to the presenter as if you’ve just done something naughty. You squint as if this practice will hone your attention span in on what the presenter is slogging through, but it only works in varying amounts. Is it really your fault? Maybe you could have had another cup of coffee? Maybe you could have had one less?

Rest easy. You most likely fell victim to a “death by powerpoint” situation. An epidemic that stems from too much information, an overcompensation of animations, and a non-graphic eye. Lucky for you- I’ve sat through some fairly tedious presentations and hashed out a list of Don’ts with some Do’s attached. These are all basic things you can do to make your presentations, sales or otherwise, better. I call them:

 

I –  THOU SHALT KEEP TEXT TO A MINIMUM

Problem: There is an unspoken myth in the minds of presenters, that if you don’t write the concept down on the slide, then you can’t talk about it. Often times the presenter will have exactly what they are going to say written down. When you do this, you’re sending mixed signals to the viewer. “Do I read the slide, or do I listen to them explain it? OK i’m done reading it, what did they just say?” SLIDES LIKE THIS LOSE DEALS:

Slide1

Solution: Write down the main idea. Write down one concise statement. Even bullet points can be explained verbally, and you want to invite them to listen to your ideas, and think of the slide as a graphical foundation for the concepts you’re throwing down. Just lay the idea out there, and then verbally explain and ask a few questions (we’ll get to the questions in a minute).

 

II – THOU SHALT KEEP THE SLIDE COUNT DOWN

Problem: I attended a demo last quarter where the presenter had his .ppt open for a split second before he went into presentation mode. I saw the slide count, and the damage was done. I cannot, for the life of me, tell you what the presentation was about, or even who the company was only the fact that I was watching the clock the entire time.

Solution: If you have THAT much information that needs to get out, I highly suggest breaking it up by priority. You can leave some to be desired and schedule a follow up presentation with value added mixed in with next steps. Additionally, you can send it as supplementary content after the call, such as infographics or videos. Don’t try and jam it all in one presentation.

 

III – THOU SHALT KEEP ANIMATIONS TO A SUBTLE MINIMUM

Problem: I would say this is a fantastic time to be alive, Powerpoint and Google Slides still can’t create an animation that doesn’t sting the retina. The way images whip in from the side, or blockily fade-in, or grainily dissolve – Its not a good look. If you have more than three animations on a slide, you have too many things on your slide. Furthermore, your index finger will scream “ENOUGH”.

Solution: You can have a simple fade in effect for some ideas or text that you don’t want to show until you make a certain point, just don’t over-do it. I would stick to 5-6 animations maximum PER PRESENTATION. Animations distract by nature. Whatever you do… do NOT animate images. That is a double-distraction. You want people to see those elements right when the slide comes up so that they can refocus their attention back to what you are going to say.

 

IV – THOU SHALT HAVE CUSTOM, RELEVANT CONTENT

Problem: Often times, you’ll encounter a slide deck where you wonder: “what does this have to do with my business?” The slides look like they could apply to just about anyone’s model, the copyright might be from last year, and the verbiage is very general – making the entire presentation rely on the orator for added relevance. Let me ask you: if you had one shot at a large account, wouldn’t you spend some time to look over your deck and update it?

Solution: The solution is just that. Spend 30 minutes, minimum, creating a custom version of the deck. Add in logos showcasing your brands together – this is a pseudo-subliminal way of easing the buyer into a relationship with you. Insert their name, create an ROI model based on whatever you found out in discovery. Bottom line is, do your due diligence and it will pay off.

 

V – THOU SHALT AGREE ON A COLOR PALETTE

Problem: Do you see anything wrong with this slide?

If your answer is no, then this commandment is relevant to you. Do you even see what is written on there? Did you just look because I asked? If so, you’ve proven my point. Slides that take the focus away from the information at hand are counterproductive. Having colors that clash creates a distraction that you can’t afford, especially when it comes to pitching new deals.

 

Solution: Decide on a smattering of colors that complement your brand. Additionally, you can create a slide deck that showcases your brand with your buyer’s palate. This association is another way to help the buyer visualize your brands working together in harmony.

 

VI – THOU SHALT HAVE A GRAPHIC DESIGNER BUILD IT

Problem: We’re all in business, because we have a certain degree of “do-it-myself” attitude. This means when problems and projects arise, our first reaction is to tackle it head on. This is how you get bad slide decks. Most of us are not in business for our design skills. That’s not the rule, but generally speaking most CEO’s, VP’s and Directors don’t have the time to create an infographic. Cutting corners becomes a way to decide what is subjectively necessary, and suddenly simple things like opacity on images and whitespace becomes non-essential. You end up with a deck that will “work.”

Solution: Someone, somewhere in your company has the time and ability to polish your thought leadership. That is how great presentations are made. The ideas and mindset come from one source, and then a designer takes it and makes it shine like a diamond. At OppSource, we take an extremely collaborative approach to our slide decks. The resulting presentations incorporate all of these commandments, and are very-well received (humble brag). We have an example for you at the bottom.

 

VII – THOU SHALT NOT POSE YES/NO QUESTIONS

Problem: Too many times there e soft-ball easy questions in a power point that are designed to “make the listener think.” If these answers come in the form of yes or no, I can assure you that the listener will be less engaged. They will hear the inflection of your voice post a question and snap back to attention right as it reaches the peak, and respond with the easiest answer. “Is this making sense?”

Solution: Ask open ended questions specific and relevant to their business. Ask them how they currently approach the problem you’re addressing. If you want to engage the critical thinking section of their brain, use “The Five Why’s” which is essentially asking “why” until you get an “I don’t know.” It’s a great way to get valuable information to add to your discovery, and reel in the attention span of your presentees.

 

VIII – THOU SHALT NOT USE CORPORATE-LOOKING IMAGES

Problem: People are tired of looking at pictures of a group of people in suits around a boardroom table.

afro-analyzing-brainstorming-1124062

The overuse of these images has caused an immunity amongst the buyers of today. As soon as an image of that well-lit office with two people seemingly having the most wonderful conversation in the world comes on the screen, eyes start to glaze over. Trust me. Look at the example to the right – unless these people are watching a cat-video on Youtube, it just looks fake. DON’T USE IMAGES LIKE THIS:

 

IX – THOU SHALT GET A SECOND AND THIRD OPINION

Problem: Often times the aforementioned “I got this” attitude leads professionals to charge in without having a second set of eyes on a presentation. Sometimes this comes in the form of last minute edits – which can turn into a complete restructuring of the deck. People get in their own head about presentations and make it  more complicated than it needs to be.

Solution: Have your closest coworker look at it first. Then make any edits you need to make, and have another co worker look at it. Have a consensus of honest opinions. It doesn’t make you weak or unprofessional to ask the opinions of your co workers before you present something. Most actually see it as prudent.

 

X – THOU SHALT HAVE A FOLLOW-UP PRESENTATION

Problem: After you go on a first date, do you call them again right after (or do they call you) and say – “Hey, want to go steady?” Well… personally I haven’t even heard someone besides my grandparents use that phrase in the last ten years, but you get the point. The answer is no, you don’t. You ask them on another date.

Solution: Create a follow-up presentation to capture their imagination just as well as the first time. you can paraphrase what you went over last time in one slide, and then have a few more explaining key details of success for them. If your first presentation was good enough, they will want that second date.