Impatient audiences of senior management or investors often complain (rightfully so) that they have been listening for 10 minutes, 10 slides, and still the main point of the presentation has not been made. 

The common reaction to this feedback:

  • Shuffle slides around, and drop slides from the back of the presentation all the way upfront. The result: a broken story flow. The sequence of slides in the front does not make sense anymore, and the left over slides in the back don't connect together.
  • Cram a lot of content on the first 3 slides and call them "summary". The result: your audience never gets to see you beautiful, highly visual slides in the back, as you are fighting your way through the bullet points in the front.

What causes the delay?

  • Think about why it takes you so long to get to the point. Does the audience needs all that background? The company mission? The company history?
  • Think about what the audience means when they say "getting to the point"? Do they really want the full detail of your solution on the first page, or would simply telling your audience what you are about quickly be enough to calm them down and stop them from guessing?
  • Think about whether your existing summary is stuck in the middle: too long to serve as a real teaser for what is about to come, and too short to give the full detail of the pitch.
  • Are you taking too much time to present your slides? Uuuh, uuums. Side tangents. Details, exceptions, apologies for rounding errors, footnotes.
  • Are you going off script: you put up a slide, but take the story in a different direction ("let me give you some context first")
  • Do you spend too much time on the obvious: explanation of buzzwords ("let me explain what the sharing economy is", "look at this data about the stellar growth of mobile phone penetration").
  • Are you reading out all the elements of a slide one by one, but because someone else designed the slide for you, they don't really fit the way you want to tell the story. So after you are done reading, you tell the message the way you wanted it, effectively presenting each slide twice.

Keep your summary super short, it is more a teaser of what is about to come. Then tell the story at a pace you would use when explaining your idea to a friend, without slides at all. 

Image from WikiPedia



If you liked this post, why not subscribe to daily updates about presentation design via email? Just blog posts, no spam, or you can follow Jan on Twitter to never miss a thing.