5 Simple Steps for Presentations that Hit the Mark

Follow this simple framework to build and deliver better business presentations

Starting with a blank slate is always hard. It’s much easier to critique or edit the ‘essay’ than write it. We’ve all been there. Sometimes inspiration is sparked from something you recently read, or your brilliant idea needs financial backing. Whatever the purpose or inspo, wrangling and shaping your story into a presentation can be challenging. Your desired outcome is to create a memorable moment with some lean-in from the audience. It’s the getting there that has you feeling stuck.

You want the viewer to love it and eventually you’d love to amass volumes of likes, followers, a loud applause or the fundraise you’ve been dreaming of, for far too long. Ultimately you want to come ‘off-stage’ feeling proud and a step closer to telling your truth and on the path to creating a long-lasting brand.

Some of us are visual thinkers with mind-maps of pictures in our head. Others ‘see’ the world verbally or in a more logical, conversational way with branches and structures. These are the folks on the debate team back in college who could store huge amounts of numbers and factoids that seemed to come spilling out like liquid gold. Today when presenting, you want interesting visuals that reinforce your words so you can wow viewers and keep ‘em on the edge of their seats or ‘hanging on your every word’. Ultimately people want to be intrigued and entertained, which makes this a lot harder.

So, where to begin

With that blank slate, you probably have some templates, a few icon assets, a style guide (maybe), hopefully a logo or an identity and now you must deliver an amazing piece of art with a compelling story. Oh I almost forget to mention there’s a looming deadline.

Understand Your Presentation's Audience

1. Understand the audience (viewer)

Step away from the blank screen (or page) and ask yourself the most important questions: who is my audience, what will they expect and what message do I want them to walk away with?

The reality is most of us only have a concentration tolerance for 20-30 minutes and depending on industry segment, title and seniority, it could be as little as 5 or 10 minutes. With our Twitter-centric world, stories have been reduced to 280 characters. Now you’re dealing with more constraints and you have to keep it tight.

You may be facing an audience with different demographic types and differing levels of topic understanding. To top that, you may even have competitors or pundits such as bloggers or media, so depending on the setting and purpose, you need to consider all possibilities. There’s much at stake.

Whether you’re working on a keynote or a product update to a limited set of customers, the fundamentals stay the same. Who are they, how will this land and what do they most care about now?

What are your presentations most salient points?

2. Determine your most salient point(s):

Once you grok the audience, you then need to ask what are the most interesting points you must deliver. If it’s more than five and you’re only talking for 20-30 minutes, you have too many. The reality is, most of us remember that magic number of three. Even with three things, you still need to figure out the one key take-away. Have you ever sat through a four-day national convention with tons of speakers? Truth is you can boil it all down to just a few big takeaways and that’s across a marathon convention.

Once you determine the most important messages, you need to litmus test that they are the right ones for the audience.

Give your presentation credibility with better research

3. Back it up with evidence:

Unless you are a recognized speaker who has authored books or garnered 100k+ followers, you probably need to work on showing authenticity and above all, be credible. Back-up any claims, opinions, beliefs or bold statements with third party evidence. If you’re asking an investor to part with millions of dollars, you probably need to have a good understanding of the market opportunity, all players and distinctly describe the pain-points you’re about to solve. Having a few customers behind you that have taken a leap is always worth sharing.

Third party research or evidence to support your points is paramount. Where you place it in your flow is also important. Sometimes it's impactful up-front like, “did you know” or perhaps it works better towards the close, “oh, this is big and you don’t want to miss out”. Either way you should take time to research proof and grab attention.

How to set yourself apart in your next presentation

4. Don’t forget the how and difference

If you have an amazing product or service that solves a really big problem, that’s fantastic. What’s unique and different about you? Perhaps it’s the under-the-covers IP that engineering has figured out or maybe it’s your go-to-market model which is a combination of pricing and channel. Either way, get to the secret sauce and keep it concise and clear. Quite often technologists or engineers start with the how and forget to talk about the pains solved and purpose for the buyer. Technology innovation is wonderful but it needs a buyer to give it a life-path.

Practice your presentation, get feedback!

5. Dry-run, practice and cut-back

When the deadline approaches, you’ll spend time twiddling the visuals, clean-up and polish fonts and often you forget the practice run. Oh dear. It’s never good when you’re part way through the live pitch and you run out of time with ten more slides and five minutes left. Get comfortable with the flow, emphasis and ultimately the salient points you must land, leaving room for questions. It’s a lot to think about in a high pressure session. People always arrive late and you waste ten minutes on introductions or fiddling with zoom.

Dry-run with friends or mentors. It’s always amazing how valuable feedback can be, especially if you’ve been super close to it for days or weeks. Take feedback gracefully, try it on for size and fine-tune before the big event.


Put these practices together, create a memorable story with kick-ass visuals and wow the viewer.

  1. Think deeply about the audience and their care-abouts
  2. Pick your top points and key take-away (one, really!)
  3. Check for credible evidence to show expertise
  4. Explain why you, and the magical difference
  5. Share for feedback, practice and fine-tune.

To learn more about GhostRanch's presentation development process, contact us here.

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Presentation Tips