How often has this happened to you?
You’re listed as the last speaker on the agenda to present your project or proposal for a management meeting. They’ve given you about 45 minutes to present with a 15 minute Q&A. So, you prepare a 30 to 45-minute slide presentation. You sit patiently as speaker after speaker run long or answer additional questions and the next thing you know, your 45-minute time slot has shrunk to maybe 10 minutes or less. As you sit there wondering what to cut, you realize that YOU are the only thing that’s standing between the attendees and happy hour.
If you’ve been there (and I know you have) you already know that simply going through a lengthy slide deck filled with bullet points, too much text and cheesy graphics is a certain recipe for a big fat “NO” to your project. What you need is a presentation success formula that will engage, entertain and enroll decision makers in less than 10 minutes.
In this article, I’m going to show you exactly how to present like a rockstar, wow the audience, get them nodding their heads to your proposal and walk out of the meeting with the directive to “Make it Happen”.
The 6 Minute Sales Presentation Formula That Gets You a “YES” Even if You Hate Presenting
If you’d rather stick a fork in your eye or be 6-feet under than get up and present an idea in front of a bunch of executives, you’re going to love this presentation outline. I learned it from a book I bought about 20 years ago called “Say it in Six” — it’s rescued me from the dreaded last place on the agenda with 10 minutes left and I’ve seen it used to sell millions of dollars of product in under 6 minutes! At the risk of being overly dramatic, I’m going to say that it’s magical.
Here’s the basic outline:
Minute 1: What’s the “Burning Issue”
This is the thesis of your presentation. It’s the reason you are standing up there. The “Burning Issue” is a single sentence that gets everyone’s attention and prompts the voice inside their head to say “WHAT? How can you say that? How did that happen?” Here’s an example of a great “Burning Issue Statement”:
“In three months our flagship product will lose its patent protection, and our competitor, Acme Corporation already has a product ready to launch in 90 days.”
Minute 2 and 3: What’s Behind the “Burning Issue”? (This is where the data goes)
When we last left our audience (after the Burning Issue statement) they were asking themselves “what happened” and this is where you’re going to explain all of that.
This is the section of your presentation where you’ll hit them with data and with facts. But be careful, don’t overwhelm them! Instead, tell this like a story and structure your data presentation in a way that gives them the conclusions as headers and the charts and data in a way that makes the conclusion intuitively obvious.
It’s Not You, It’s How You Present Your Data
Before we go into the rest of the outline, I’d like to stop and provide a quick primer on how to present data.
Decisions are emotional and not logical
For decades we’ve been deluding ourselves and pretending that we are rational decision makers. Nothing is further from the truth.
Data is a story, so tell it.
When you present data, be sure to match the chart with the question you’re trying to answer. Data is a story and to tell that story you have to answer basic questions of who, what, when, where and why. There’s a chart for that. Each story question has an appropriate chart to clearly communicate its story. Here are some simple guidelines:
- WHO or WHAT questions: Use images to illustrate your data.
- HOW MUCH questions: Use vertical bar charts to show change over time. Use horizontal bar charts to compare quantities. Use pie charts to show percentages and limit your pie to no more than 6 slices. Tables are less emotional, so if you’re trying to downplay something, a table is a great solution.
- WHERE questions: Use maps or Venn Diagrams
- WHEN questions: Show processes with arrows indicating time.
- HOW MUCH questions: Use bar charts to show comparisons.
- WHY questions: When you want to explain the “why” behind your burning issue, use bubble charts or charts that show correlations.
Here’s an infographic from Dan Roam, author of “Back of the Napkin” that shows you exactly what charts to use to communicate different types of data.
Minute 4: Your Solution to the Burning Issue
At this stage of your presentation, your audience is begging for a solution. You’ve told them what the issue is, you’ve given data for how the issue happened, and this data may have hinted at what the solution is. But their inner voice is crying “What can we do?” and this is the section where you tell them in vivid, descriptive detail.
Rather than propose a solution, start this section with a phrase like “Imagine….” and then go into the benefits that your solution will offer which address the challenges you discussed with the data.
If you have the opportunity to provide mock-ups or prototypes, this would be the time to do so. Most likely you will be proposing an idea, so make sure that your presentation includes vivid powerful images that take up the entire slide and invoke the desired emotion.
Minute 5: The Payoff
We’re heading into the home-stretch of your presentation. You’ve gotten their attention with the Burning Issue, you’ve explained the history behind the burning issue, you’ve even created a solution for dealing with the burning issue. Now, it’s time to make them feel great about your solution by making a list of all the reasons why this solution is good for everyone. If your solution is the feature, these are the benefits.
As you’re thinking of your list of payoffs, don’t just look at this from your own point of view, consider your audience; what personal benefit will they receive from your proposed solution?
Minute 6: The Action You Want Them to Take?
If you don’t A-S-K, you don’t G-E-T. If you want your audience to approve something or do something, then you have to ask for it and, most importantly, you have to tell them exactly what to do. For example, if there is something to sign, then say “We can get this started as soon as you sign this proposal.”
Presentation Design Tips
Great presentations are crafted and designed. I’ve just shared my outline for building a great story that will get your audience to say YES to your proposal. In this section, I’m going to share some basic tips for designing visually appealing slides that will make any proposal irresistible.
Leave Lots of “White” Space
Don’t overwhelm your slides with text or cheesy clip art. It’s distracting. Think of your slides as a backdrop to your presentation. Your slides should support YOU and your story and create an emotional response in the audience.
When you put up a slide loaded with text or data your audience shifts their focus from YOU to the slide. Their brain goes into overdrive reading, doing the math and ignoring what you are saying.
This slide is much better:
Limit Distracting Transitions
Just because slide platforms include twenty different transition options doesn’t mean you should use them. Stick to the “fade in” transition. It’s easy on the eyes and keeps the audience focused on your message
Use authentic high-quality photo images on your slides.
Avoid overly staged stock photos, especially those with unrealistic props. Look for images will models with natural posts and facial expressions,
Here are a few places where you can get free images that are actually quite good:
Here’s another tip: Use images of people. It’s easier for the audience to see themselves with your product or service when you feature people.
Create Unique Slides
Avoid using templates provided by platforms. The audience has seen these templates too many times and they will often just ignore them or tune them out.
Use Colors Strategically
If you’re going to be presenting in a dark room, then use a dark background with white or light letters. If you’re going to be presenting in a brighter room or with lights on, then use a light background with dark text.
Use cool colors like blue or green are great colors for backgrounds because they tend to recede into the background. Warm colors work best for foreground such as images or text because they make it look like they are coming at you.
Find Your Font
Choose a sans serif font for presentations. Serif fonts, like Times New Roman, were designed for easier reading of small text. Since we’re dealing with few words with large type size, sans serif is a better choice.
Put It All Together
Standard slide presentation platforms make life easy with pre-defined templates, but often, those templates can’t tell your story as well as you can.
I struggled with this exact issue. I knew exactly what to do, but I’m not a designer and when I created my own templates — I don’t know, they just didn’t have that designer “umph” factor. When the Beautiful.AI team contacted me and showed me their platform, I was so excited, that I actually created my very own media kit inside of about an hour. The whole experience was drag and drop. I didn’t worry about colors, I didn’t worry about image placement, I didn’t even worry about transitions because it’s all set up. Completely foolproof!
Here are just a few slides from my media kit that show how I told my Story.
In the end, a great presentation that sells the sizzle is a function of a tightly crafted outline supported by a thorough analysis of the data and pulled together by good design.