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Presentation is as important as your offering

Guest blog by Barry Richardson, Founder & Creative Director,

A few months ago I was invited into Allia’s Cambridge Future Business Centre to deliver tips and tactics on how to create awesome pitch presentations.

For those of you who didn’t attend, rather than just provide nuts and bolts advice on not falling into Powerpoint’s ‘white slide trap’ I also provided vital context behind the principals of design, advertising, and marketing (which is my area of expertise). Why? Because these principals are extremely applicable to presentation creation.

Presentations are marketing
Be it to angel investors or consumers, as an entrepreneur, you will always be pitching your offering. So whether you’re pitching in the boardroom, or your marketing communications are doing the talking for you, your audience will be asking themselves one question; “what’s in it for me?”.

If you cannot answer this question succinctly, they will switch off. Opportunity… lost.

When you boil it down, there are two key ingredients to any marketing or presentation; style and substance.

In fact, the saying ‘style without substance’ can be applied to the majority of marketing communications. Marketing without substance is what the kids of today call “meh”. It’s the kind of marketing which passes you by because; it means nothing to you, it’s not solving a problem you have, or selfishly isn’t beneficial to you (which for an investor is a route straight to “No!”).

In a recent blog I explained how:
4% of advertising is remembered
7% of advertising is remembered negatively
79% of advertising is forgotten or unnoticed.

Whilst the last statistic is staggering, I believe these marketing communications are those that lead with style over substance (which I’ll come on to shortly). In the meantime, if only 4% of communications are remembered, how do you avoid your presentations and/or marketing from being ignored or forgotten?

Ends with benefits
As an entrepreneur, you will, more often than not, be in ‘feature mode’. Rightly so. Features are the foundations of a product or offering. To you they are important. To your prospects, however, not so much. You see, whilst features may rationalise a sale, benefits make a sale. Some of you may recall the famous – and extremely successful – IBM advertising campaign “No one got fired for buying an IBM”. This campaign didn’t champion the features of the microchips, processors etc, no. This was all about emotion. As a result, the campaign overflowed with substance. And it worked.

So as well as not falling into the ‘white slide trap’ (see my slide notes for a full explanation), bombarding your audience with features is another cardinal sin of presentations.

Substance and style should be balanced in equal measure.
Before I briefly talk about substance’s flip side (style) I have a quick anecdote about a chocolate brownie. Sounds random I know. Bear with me… I promise it’s relevant.

Recently I’ve been reading Richard Shotton’s brilliant book ‘The Choice Factory – 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy’. It’s a great book, but one part (about how our expectations shape our perceptions) has tattooed itself on my brain indefinitely.

To prove a theory, a professor conducted a study whereby cafe customers were given free samples of three brownies in return for answering two questions; how much they would pay, and how they rated the different taste. To cut to the chase, all the brownies were exactly the same recipe. The only difference was how the brownie was presented. One on a napkin, the second on a paper plate, the third on white china.

Not only did the taste test reveal the brownie served on china was the nicest (despite them all tasting the same), more interestingly, customers were willing to pay $1.27 for the brownie on the plate vs 53 cents for the brownie served on the napkin. The pristine-white china plate more than doubled the perceived value.

For me, this proves one thing, your presentation is just as important as your offering. 

If you present to investors using the ‘white slide trap’ their perceived value of you and your offering will be lower than a branded, well-constructed presentation.

This is where ‘style’ matters. Yes, design is very subjective, but remember, your audience are fickle. Despite the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ we do. Aside from substance, if your marketing looks like you’ve cut corners, subliminally your audience is thinking “where else have you cut corners?”.

Marketing and presentation is more reflective than you think. Don’t underestimate it.

Download the full “creating yes” presentation here