Most pitch decks are disasters. They are confusing, boring, uninspiring, and misused. The worst thing is that it isn’t a secret. Death by PowerPoint is a syndrome as well-known as many a medical condition.
Despite the efforts of presentation design gurus such as Nancy Duarte (Slide:ology) and Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen) to show the world a better way, by and large entrepreneurs continue to churn out the same text-laden pitch killers.
Adopt the following principles, and you’ll ensure your pitch deck stands out from the crowd and engages and excites your audience:
1. Make yourself the focus of your pitch rather than your visual presentation. Your presentation is there to support and reinforce your key messages, not replace you.
2. Don’t create a text-rich, picture-poor presentation. People cannot read and listen at the same time. If your audience is reading from the text on your PowerPoint, they are not listening to you. Of course there will be some slides where some text is necessary, but they should be the exception rather than the rule. If you must use text, try to follow Seth Godin’s wise words of never more than six words on a slide.
The proper place for a text-rich document is either in the executive summary or presentation you send ahead or the document you leave behind.
3. Use stunning visuals. Do it like Steve Jobs, and use stunning visuals and the odd word or term here or there. Great visuals inspire and engage people emotionally.
4. Ban the bullets. Bullets kill people, and bullet points kill presentations. Don’t use them. They are unattractive and will detract from the aesthetic qualities of your images. If you heed the advice to abandon using text, then you will no longer have a need for them.
5. Don’t use animations or transitions. They are cheesy and overused, add nothing, and are distracting. Remember, you must remain the focus throughout your pitch.
6. Aim for simplicity and clarity. Each slide should convey a single thought or idea.
7. Place your logo smartly. Use your company logo on only the first and last slide so as to minimize any visual distractions.
8. Use quotes and data that support your key messages. A slide with a single quote or significant statistic from a credible source can be very impactful.
9. Review and edit. Once you have created your presentation, review it with the filter of asking whether or not each slide directly supports your primary objective i.e. securing investment or the sale. If it doesn’t, delete it.
10. Address your audience’s concerns. It may be your pitch but you need to focus on what’s important to them, not you.