For any great idea to be truly realized, it first needs to be effectively communicated and understood. With an arsenal of technology and information now at our disposal, building a strong pitch deck to get your vision across should be easy, right?
The answer to this is sort of. The myriad options of design platforms and presentation software make creating presentations easier than ever, but in order to make the content resonate, you have to ask yourself some important questions.
This is where Silicon Valley-based Duarte finds its niche. Operating as both a service-based agency and an in-house academy, the Duarte team helps educate its clients to find their ultimate message and work with them to build an engaging and thoughtful way to communicate it. “A tremendous struggle for a lot of people in many corporations is that they have the best of intentions, but a lack of knowledge or technological expertise to make it a reality,” says Michael Duarte, Director of the Learning Academy Team at Duarte.
This disconnect can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be a roadblock. Informed by co-founder Nancy Duarte’s book, The HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, Duarte Academy’s courses focus on helping companies and individuals find their “Big Idea” and then keep people engaged and informed. Michael Duarte spoke with The Venture on the three things to consider when you’re building a pitch deck.
1. Quality over quantity.
It may seem simple enough, but getting your message across clearly can often be the most difficult part of creating an impactful presentation. When you have a lot of thoughts to share, your core message can easily become lost. “We work with very creative companies and we work with very analytical companies, and one consistent challenge is that it is easy for us to put a lot of information on these slides and assume it will be effective,” says Duarte.
Presenters often mistakenly try to cram all the information they have in an effort to answer any possible questions the audience may have. “It’s a very safe way to approach it, but the reality is you can become nothing to all people because they don’t understand your message,” says Duarte. Rather than force your audience into information overload, try to give those viewing your presentation enough time to process and understand the integral aspects of your message.
2. Remember who you’re talking to.
When preparing for a presentation, you may have mental checklist of all the points you feel you should hit. But how much of it is necessary? Sometimes, extra information that doesn’t apply to the audience can distract from the pertinent points. “If I’m going to talk with the VP of sales, I’m going to have a very different message than I would if talking to my project manager for marketing,” says Duarte. “Although they will align eventually, they’re going to have very different goals and their needs will be different.” Duarte suggests crafting an approach tailor made for the people you’re presenting to, even if that means making several different variations of what is ultimately the same message. “If I don’t think about what they need, then I will have a shotgun approach that may not be affective for anyone.”
3. Get a little help from your friends.
There is a final point that Duarte thinks is absolutely imperative: “I’m a big believer that you can’t do this all on your own.” The Duarte Academy makes a point to workshop presentations by implementing several “checkpoints” where teams pause to evaluate their work and check in with people outside of the presentation to ensure that the message is clear and effective. The academy also encourages a concept they call the “Big Idea,” which is a fundamental idea that permeates throughout the presentation to help sell the underlying message.
Duarte also believes in making sure that every person on a presentation’s team is on the same page. “If you have multiple people building a presentation -perhaps they’re sharing components of it- there needs to be a core understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish. That type of information and feedback will help to modify or enhance, and can help you make a more focused and deliberate statement to build your presentation around.”
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