As a former New York City Ad Man pitching $50M+ ad campaign, Midwest Entrepreneur pitching and raising about $6 million in venture capital and as a Startup Speaker/Teacher/Mentor/Advisor for entities like Tech Stars, Pipeline, GAN, Raikes, Straight Shot & NMotion, I’ve been through the grinder with presentations: giving them, receiving them, planning them, recording them, failing at them (failing cringy-hard lulz), killing them…them killing my soul - you name it. I’m grateful, proud and (privately still feel undeserving to) have won awards for pitches too.
Whether you’re speaking about your company to potential clients, investors or students, this presentation checklist will help you give the best 9-minute show of your life. Yes, 9 minutes. Yes, show. Keep reading. The following six steps are the list you can check off on the plane ride to your presentation and walk straight into that MOFO looking like a BAMF.
1. Define Success.
What is the goal of the presentation? Rarely, if ever, is the crowd going to do what you want. For example, an Investor is not going to jump up with a blank check and say “How much do you need!?” Typically, “success” for the encounter is simply getting another meeting. It’s more like dating and marriage versus buying a car. I recommend going through the WOOP! Process:
- Wish: What do you want?
- Outcome: What is the best outcome?
- Obstacle: What personal conflicts prevent you from getting your wish?
- Plan: What can you do to overcome your obstacle?
Sometimes the best outcome/goal is eye contact and smiles. Here’s a great website/app to learn more about WOOPIN’ - woopmylife.org (Shout out to Shankar Vedantam and Gabriele Oettingen and the podcast Hidden Brain for putting me onto this!)
2. Tell a Story
When we raised venture capital for Bulu Box, I used my personal 100lb weight loss story to begin our company pitch. My experience was the genesis of Bulu Box, and it helps investors connect with our customers and me. Humans love stories. How did you become the Subscription Box Champion? The Random Internet Business Star? Start and end with a story. Save your data and metrics for slide 4, robot.
3. Check Your Boxes
There are a few content points that, if you hit them, will help you nail a presentation. These are the “Shit! I have 1 hour to get ready, what do I need to cover?” points.
✅ A Great Story with a problem, challenge or opportunity intertwined.
✅ The solution or outcome to that problem, challenge or opportunity
✅ A key insight or magical element of enlightenment
✅ What suspects are part of the caper?
✅ Cool, fun, interesting numbers, think Freakonomics
✅What’s the next chapter of the story? Tie it all back to #1.
✅ The Steve Jobs “One more thing”
So let’s say I had a presentation on um…uh…toilet paper! I could talk about how dry toilet paper sucks, how bidets are a great solution for the U.S, bidets are easy to install and less harmful to the environment so you should start a bidet company. There are a few bidet companies in the U.S. I can talk about bidet executives and find some interesting data points on profit margins, availability, how bidets might cut back on diseases, how much one can save not buying toilet paper and close with what the world would look like if everyone used a bidet. Spoiler: bidets would probably save lives because their use would decrease the spreading of germs. BOOM. You’re super interested in bidets now, right?
✅ Dry toilet paper sucks, people die from disease-related poo germs.
✅ Easy to install and good for the earth and they reduce germs!!
✅ Bidets wash your butt
✅ Biologists, Environmentalists, Mothers, etc.
✅ Customers can save millions of trees using a bidet versus toilet paper
✅ We have a working prototype, funding in the pipeline but what’s best is that we can save people from dying of dysentery.
✅ We installed bidets in the bathrooms during this presentation so you can go try one now!
✅ Thanks, Q&A
(NOTE: I used this “bidet” example as a joke in presentations…since that time this company has pooped up… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-1f2cM3Ask)
4. Simple is Smart
You can’t cover everything in 9 minutes. If you’re trying, you’re saying too much. A good rule of thumb is 1 slide = 1 min. Consider your audience. In one sentence, what do you want the audience to leave the presentation knowing? Drill down and eliminate the fluff. You should feel like you’re repeating yourself in the form of common themes. Themes such as hope or fear are typical and an easy go-to. (Just remember, in the context of your exciting story about bidets or subscription boxes or whatever your product is, those themes won’t feel overdone!)
I always think about it like this: 10 minutes of intense, killer, confident presentation leads to 20 minutes of questions and once people start adding thoughts, ideas or concepts related to your presentation – SHUT UP, smile and nod because you did your job. WOOP! WOOP!
I don’t mean a simple run-through once or twice. I’m talking about standing in your living room for a few hours presenting to your dogs like they’re the American Idol judges. I recommend practicing in front of the mirror. When I’m working on a new or particularly important presentation, I’ll even film myself to work on cadence and track my body language. Also, record yourself and send it to friends to critique. Have you ever watched yourself present? Chances are, you’re seriously boring (I was), and you need to learn how to smile and have fun (I did)!
6. No, Seriously. Practice.
A few practice rounds make the difference between a great presentation and terrible presentation. Please, practice. Do it for the audience.