Many clients stress that they want to get a number of points across in their presentations right at the beginning of the presentation. Sometimes they are right, sometimes not.

The fear that you are not getting your points across early enough stems from experiences with PowerPoint marathon sessions: slide, after slide, after slide with bullet points. A human attention span is short and points that have not been made before minute 10 of the 60 minute monster session will not stick. Legitimate concern.

But, some messages need a bit of preparation before you can make them. "We are flexible" as a first message is unlikely to stick. People get used to the accent of your voice, need to understand what flexibility (everyone talks about that in their presentations) actually means in the context of your particular product, and finally they need to know why over the past 50 years nobody has managed to deliver that flexibility.

There is a big risk that you will run your presentation 3 times:

  1. First pass on slide one. You spend 10 minutes on this first slide, making all your points, but do it in a too generic way so nobody really internalises why they are so special. You actually spend too little time on them.
  2. You spend too much time on the body of the presentation, where you repeat most of the messages of slide but now add detail after detail after detail. Thirty minutes in, you have lost your audience.
  3. Then, there is always the opportunity to repeat the presentation on the final summary slide (can be the same as page 1), where you spend too much time repeating the key messages in too generic language.

How to do it better?

  • Avoid PowerPoint marathons all together and keep your presentation short. Even if you get offered a 60 minute slot, don't fill it.
  • Make a big point on slide 1 without giving in to the temptation of running your whole story. "We are actually the first company in 50 years that managed to offer 45 different sizes of  shoes and this flexibility is a huge deal, which I will point out to you later"
  • Then run the story at such a length/pace that it fills but not exceed the audience attention span.  Make the points "you want to make early on" properly, but nothing more than that.
  • Close with a reference to the opening slide: "know you see why these 45 different sizes are such a big deal"

"What I want to say early on" equals "what I really want to say". Just say it, and not much more.

Vincent van Gogh, A Pair of Leather Clogs, 1888