Richard Goring, Director at presentation design agency BrightCarbon
Presentations have been the bread and butter of the tech industry really since the inception of the tech sector itself. Fundraising decks, sales pitches and team meetings have all found a natural home on the PowerPoint slide and in tech boardrooms.
When the pandemic first hit, the tech sector, for the most part, seamlessly led the transition to a world of fully remote working. But that doesn’t mean that everything worked well. Even in the tech sector, presentations were full of boring content, blocks of text and dull deliveries.
But virtual presentations are here to stay. Sales teams, investors, and start-ups are now doing more virtual meetings in the early stages of a deal even where they do eventually meet in-person later on..
A good sales presentation can be the fuel your team needs to get them through the first stages of a deal. So ditch the cliched slides and make your presentations shine in the virtual environment. You need to create presentations that win over your audience, and here’s the right way to do it.
As we’ve moved to a virtual world, checking out mentally and physically from a meeting is pretty easy for the audience. Pop yourself on mute, camera off and minimise the screen, and you can get back to other things like email or making a cup of tea. The presenter can’t rely on their own presence or charisma as easily, and an entire world of distraction is just a click away.
In the virtual world you’re separated from your audience. There’s no natural feedback for the presenter to work with. In addition, the presenter’s face is a small box in the corner of the screen. Unlike a conference room where the audience can easily see both you and your slides, you’re now in competition for pixels on a screen.
So, how can you master the art of virtual presentations? Here’s our top tips.
Actually do the prep work
As tempting as it is, don’t just open up PowerPoint and start adding slides – your sales and funding team won’t thank you when they turn up with a deck that doesn’t work for the meeting. Take 10 minutes to think through content, length, who will be presenting, how complex will your slides be, will you use icons or pictures, colour scheme and when they actually need to deliver the presentation.
It’s easy to write a presentation from a you-centric perspective. This is fine because you’re the one doing the presentation, right? No – and all too often the voice of the audience is missing in the presentation.
Once you’ve lined up what you want to say with what your audience wants to hear, you’re on course for an effective presentation – and ready to start putting some slides together.
Use persuasive language and structure
Yes, your junior school teacher was right! The language you use has a huge impact on the outcome of your presentation. But the structure you put into your presentation also matters. Make the agenda about the audience – the benefits, opportunities and interests that are most of use to them.
Part of this also comes down to making sure the presentation is giving new and engaging information. That means you can lose the slides about you, and instead cut straight to the big questions about your audience, product or business instead.
Make sure your structure is actively working alongside your content to answer the big questions your audience will have. One of the best ways is to structure your content around your value proposition, showing it to the audience each time you move to a new section.
Write content that backs up your structure
Your structure helps the audience understand why they should do something, your content backs up the point.
The first thing you need to do is make sure the content is fresh. If they’ve looked at your website they’ll quickly spot that you copied that same solution overview or founder background. Best case you bore them, worst case they think you have nothing original to say. Website content should help you to get a meeting. Once in the meeting you need to say more to help close a deal.
Linked to keeping it fresh, is keeping it short. You need to pace the presentation for the audience you have, so that they don’t drop their attention before you’ve hit your stride. So don’t save your best content until the end as the audience might have stopped listening before you ever show it.
It can also make sense to create targeted messaging that addresses other presentations your audience might see. Other startups in the same space, or a competitor that you know the prospect will also be considering. Without naming them directly, you can craft compelling content that takes aim at the weaknesses of your rivals.
Don’t fall into the text trap
We’ve all been there. Sitting through endlessly, text filled presentations on a sunny Friday afternoon when you’d really rather be doing anything else in the world. Not only are these presentations boring, they’re also completely ineffective.
A much better strategy is to get the message across with compelling visuals. Presentations should use relevant images to help you explain complex concepts, paint a picture of what you are selling, and have your messages stick. Not clip art, not stock images of handshakes, but relevant visualisations and charts that get your points across. If you can use animation to impart meaning – showing how something works, how something changes – then even better for keeping an online audience engaged.
Nail your delivery
Your delivery can make or break an online presentation – so remember the basics around pausing for breaks, engaging the audience and body language. Online, you need to think about how all of these factors are multiplied when you’re squeezed into a little box on the side of the presentation slide.
No one intentionally looks hostile or lazy; no one means to come across as over familiar or timid. However, the truth is that it can be all too easy to fall into one of these traps. Remember that body language is just one of the vehicles for delivery. Getting the message right, the content, the language, the follow-up, the technology are all big priorities.