Telling your story: tips on creating an effective presentation

Creating a presentation is an art. And like any art form, it takes time and care to create something memorable.
At McGuffin, we’ve done our fair share of presenting over the years and gained lots of insights into what to do and not to do. A while back, we distilled all of this learning into a series of webinars that we presented to one of our largest clients.

It was a large audience, up to 300 people, and the presentation was so well received, we think the key points bear repeating. After all, the pitch is one of the most critical parts of the sales cycle. In many cases, it can set the tone for the entire professional relationship.
Here are some handy tips we’ve learned about how to master the art of creating a presentation:

Creating a narrative strategy

Think of your presentation as telling a story, with each slide a chapter of that story. To create that narrative, however, first you need to understand your audience and figure out the best way to make that story compelling and relevant to them. This means:

  • Knowing their goals and priorities — and the challenges they face.
  • Customizing your presentation to speak to them and demonstrate how you can help address their needs.
  • Not just talking about yourself, but rather focusing your story on the audience and how you can help solve their problems.
  • Highlighting your differentiators: Identifying and communicating why you are distinctly qualified to help them — the capabilities and experience that make you stand out from your competitors. (What we at McGuffin call our “golden thread.”)
  • Setting goals for the presentation; pinpoint what you want to achieve and the actions you want your audience to take afterwards.

Once you’ve done this strategizing, you’re ready to build the presentation.  

Dealing with short attention spans

  • If possible, keep your presentation to no more than 15 slides. Be clear, concise and well organized. Eliminate extraneous information.
  • Use brief bullet points you can expand on, not paragraphs taken from your website. It’s better for the presenters not to read the actual bullets—the audience can do that—but rather to explain or expound on them in their own words or use an example to demonstrate what the slide is saying.
  • Engage with your audience. Ask them questions and get them to respond. 

Tailoring your presentation

After building the foundation of your presentation, you want to make the most of your efforts and be able to use the deck for multiple audiences. So, build additional pages to address each of your target audiences and then tailor the deck accordingly for each meeting.
Keep in mind, too, that a pitch presentation is not a one-way communication. Build in time for questions and comments. You want your audience to feel part of the process. After all, your goal is to make it about them and what they need. 

Finishing strong

After you’re finished presenting, remember to ask for a clear next step whenever possible. Think of what you want your audience to do and leave the presentation with an ask.

Be sure to send a follow-up email whether that includes the presentation you just walked through or something more creative. Whatever you end up sending, it’s critical to stay top of mind.

With planning and practice, anyone can master the art of creating a presentation. Once you do, chances are you’ll see it reflected in the bottom line.