Presentation sins. You’re guilty.
Updated: Jan 6, 2019
I get pitched a lot. And that's great. I will give it a chance if your product/service/app/most-awesome-thing-ever sounds like it might help business.
This also means I get to see a lot of decks. And, let me tell you, some of them are, let's just say, less than amazing.
You don't have to be in Marketing to do a good deck. Here are some of the most frequently seen offenses and a few suggestions for fixes. Some issues are more egregious than others, but fixing all these will make you more polished and effective.
Sin #1: Your deck is 30/40/50+ pages long
Fix: Giving too much information stems from fear: "if I don't talk about Feature #42, that may have been JUST the thing to cinch the deal!" In practice, this never happens. You've simply just bored and overwhelmed your audience.
Breathe deeply. Sit in a quiet place (or loud place—hey, whatever helps you focus) and ask yourself: what do I want the person seeing this deck to remember? Then figure out the story sequence that leads to that takeaway. Keep your story to 15 slides MAX. 10 is better. 5 is awesome.
Sin #2: Lots and lots and lots of text on a slide. Your sub-bullets have sub-bullets...that have sub-paragraphs…all in 8pt type.
Fix: There are very few times this is justifiable or acceptable. If you're giving the presentation in person, put minimal words on each slide that will prompt you to remember the point you wanted to make there; the bulk of the detail should come from you.
If you are sending this deck out and worry that without ample explanation, the benefits of your platform/solution/big idea will be lost, stuffing the page like a Thanksgiving turkey is not the answer. Extract just the key points; be succinct. Details can be handled in a follow-up conversation.
Sin #3: Burying the lead
Fix: Not getting to the “meat” quickly enough will lose your audience. Once you’ve figured out what your one big point is (see sin #1), get right to it. One slide on “market conditions” (if needed) and one to two slides introducing your company should do it. After that, what’s the main point? Once you’ve made it and have my interest, you can give supporting detail or proof points.
Sin #4: Being generic
Fix: I am continually surprised by how often this eyeroll-inducingly simple “marketing 101” tenet gets ignored. Look me up. Look up my company. With so much information available online, it can be a five-minute time investment. If you’ve done your homework, I am much more likely to not only listen to your whole pitch, but pass it on to a more relevant colleague when I am not the right decision-maker.
Sin #5: Sloppy visuals
Fix: If you use logos that are stretched or have white boxes around them that show up on a color or textured background; if you have inconsistent fonts/colors/formatting styles throughout; if you randomly mix generic clip art with photography, iconography, and whatever else you extract from the kitchen sink, it all needs to be addressed. Your content may be fantastic, but if presented in a visually unappealing way, you’ve just made a statement about your professionalism and your brand. If you have access to a designer, use this resource. If not, may be worth it to hire one in order to establish your brand guidelines and get help building a library of visual assets you can use in presentations. Then stick to those guidelines.
Sin #6: Forgetting the purpose of a presentation
Fix: Keep in mind this often forgotten truth—no money gets exchanged as result of a presentation. Even if yours is in response to an RFP with allocated budget set for your exact solution, chances are high that your deck alone won't close this business. You want to present a compelling story; you want to differentiate; you want to pique interest and prompt questions. You want your audience to be so intrigued and delighted that they will be clamoring for a phone call or (more) face time to get further detail and figure out how to keep their competitors off your scent. In other words, your goal should be eliciting active interest and desire to get closer to a close.