All the CEOs and company founders we work with know how to best present their companies… in 3 hours. Few know how to do it effectively in 10 or 15 minutes, which is the amount of time they usually get to show in a high-stakes meeting what their companies can do.
These top managers know everything about their companies — from the vision to the structure; from marketing strategy to selling the features of each product; from the demographics of their marketplace to their ad budget requirements. But that very abundance of information can be the thing that gets them into trouble when they have a limited time to engage, enchant and convince.
One of the most difficult challenges in creating an engaging company presentation, or for that matter any presentation, is to compress hours of information, materials, previous slides, data and charts into a 15-minute story that will move your audience in the direction you want them to go.
But there’s so much that matters! How do you choose what information to convey and what to leave out of a given presentation? How do you renounce all those compelling arguments, facts, data and charts?
Well, there is a way to create a business presentation that will get you where you want to go in 15 minutes or less. Here are some tips to get you moving in the right direction:
Start with the end in mind
Spend time defining your goal: What do you want your audience to do, think and feel at the end of the presentation?
Be realistic. If you’re discussing a complex product, most likely the audience won’t buy it after just one meeting. Actually, more often than not, the objective of that first meeting is to create just enough interest to be able to hold a second meeting, at which point you can dive deep.
Be as specific as possible about your goals. This will help you to prioritize and to sift through all your information, leaving on the cutting room floor what may be attractive but just doesn’t serve a particular purpose.
Think about story, not presentation
Instead of thinking: “What slides should I use?” Try, “What story do I tell?”
By creating a story first, you’ll naturally fulfill many of the requirements of a good presentation: a flow with beginning, middle and end; a logical sequence of topics; and engaging transitions, This may seem obvious and simplistic, but the fact that you had a story in mind will make an enormous difference in the impact of your presentation.
Create an outline
The outline defines the topics you’ll be presenting, and it maps the flow of the presentation. Think of a presentation outline as the table of contents of a book, with just a few chapters (3 to 5 tends to work better).
A good outline also defines the topics that absolutely need to be addressed, and in what order. It will be clear to you that removing any of these will compromise the case you’re trying to make. And creating a strong outline will keep you honest, helping you not to deviate from the main story.
Filter content into the outline
Out of all the content you have at the start, introduce only the information, data and evidence that directly support the narrative of a given topic.
Don’t be afraid of using too little content. You can always use additional information during the Q&A, or in an appendix or as a handout.
Overall, prioritizing like this is one of the main challenges in creating a great presentation. But you’ll find that if you define your goal at the outset and create a solid story and a smart outline, you’ll find it much easier to choose — out of all those hours of company information — just what best belongs in a 15-minute pitch. And what doesn’t.