Mark Twain once said, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” I found this to be very true.
Here are some tips I learned that you can apply to your presentation. Whether you’re a startup pitching a VC or a an employee pitching upper management, the underlying principles on how to deliver a killer presentation are the same.
Use The 10-20-30 Rule
This is a slide deck rule created by serial entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki. This rule states that a PowerPoint slideshow should have no more than 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes and have no text less than 30 point font.
If you stick to this rule you can highlight all of the important nuggets of your message without using too much time or too many words.
Don’t Memorize Every Word
It’s a good idea to write your whole script down at least once. But after it becomes relatively concrete, practice with only the key points on a note card. This will make it sound like you are not reading off a script and you won’t freeze if one word is off. Memorizing the main point also gives you the flexibility to improvise a little, especially if you’re giving it multiple times.
Practice 50+ Times
I was told by my mentors to practice my pitch at least 50 times before Demo Day. I thought they were exaggerating; they weren’t. I practiced my pitch at least 60-70 times over a month and a half before I presented and I’m glad I did. When the stakes are high, it’s important that you practice the pitch so much that you can pull it off no matter the time of day. Also, be sure to practice in front of strangers so that you can get some fresh eyes and feedback.
Set Before Speaking
If you start a speech off rough, you may lose your audience’s attention in the first few seconds. Make sure you set before you speak. Setting before speaking just means walking in, pausing and making eye contact before speaking. Also, be sure to set when you are done speaking so you leave with a strong presence and don’t come off as rushed.
If you are nervous when presenting, you will have a tendency to speak fast. It happens to the best of us. People tend to speak faster out loud than they believe they are speaking in their head. Speaking fast can ruin a presentation because you will come off as inexperienced and the audience won’t be able to take in what you are saying. Speak much slower than what you think is normal because that’s probably the perfect pace.
No matter whether you are pitching your business, a product, or an idea, you are really pitching yourself. It’s much easier to persuade someone to do something if they like you. That’s why it’s important to be personable during your presentation. This includes smiling, making jokes, being enthusiastic about what you’re pitching and just showing that you love being on stage. If you can make your audience like you, they will be more receptive of your pitch.
Pause & Emphasize
During your presentation, there are usually certain parts that you will want to emphasize more than others. Do exactly that and change the projection of your voice to help emphasize that point. When you say a joke, pause after and give your audience time to laugh. When you are about to convey a really great piece of information, pause before to create anticipation.
Be Ready For Questions
When you are giving a presentation in order to sell something (product, stake in your company, etc.), there will usually be questions following your presentation. Not only should you be practicing your pitch beforehand, but you should also be practicing answering possible questions that your audience might ask. Write the hardest ones that you believe might come up so that you can answer them confidently on game day.