PowerPoint still top choice for investor decks

When startups sit down to create a presentation, it feels as though many of them spend more time debating the application or platform they are going to use for the slideshow than they do preparing the actual material.

This is one of those times when having too many choices can actually be a bad thing. In this case, it is just slowing down the creative process. Imagine a screenplay writer. According to Film Underground, per the Writers Guild of America,  the standard font for professional screenplays is Courier 12 point font. Anything else just looks amateur. No pro screenwriter or production company is going to waste time reinventing time-tested script format when they should be focusing their creative energy on the storyline they are developing. The same idea applies to startups crafting a pitch for an investor.

The truth is that PowerPoint is still the industry leader, and in the vast majority of cases, it is all the company needs to create the perfect, winning presentation. There are, however, plenty of other details that startups should focus on to make sure their ideas captivate their investors. Here are some of the key elements that those designing a professional presentation should use to make sure their pitch stands out from the rest.

Use the slides to complement the presentation, not be the presentation

A good presentation will not have the audience spending more time reading off the slides than listening to the speaker. Try to keep words and numbers on the slides to a minimum and instead use visuals that can help reinforce the points made in the presentation. The slides should not be used as an outline of the presentation. In areas where words and numbers are unavoidable, use them as sparingly as possible.

Multimedia and animations should also lend themselves to creating a professional yet enticing appearance. They are fantastic for helping to elicit emotions, bringing attention to the presenter, and they can help accent a particular point, but do not let them overpower the message. The primary focus should always be on the presenter and what the person is saying. Those who design presentations professionally work to strike a balance between entertaining and distracting, and it is a fine line to walk.

Think about the details

Nothing will bore an audience faster than not being able to easily see the PowerPoint content onscreen. It is important to make sure that any words or numbers can be easily seen from all areas of the room. Guy Kawasaki offers some great guidelines here in his classic 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint — not always practical, but worth noting.

Do not forget the value of story time

Develop a presentation that offers clear substance, explains and supports the main messages, and is easy for everyone to remember. Hard numbers and statistics are great for supporting an idea, but it is stories that help to embellish a presentation and make the entire concept easy for people to remember and recall later, so try to include both.

Develop a presentation that speaks to the ‘Big Idea’

Too many presentations leave unanswered questions. Perhaps they clearly explain what the audience should understand, but they do not explain what a person should do with it. Maybe they explain a vision, but they do not articulate why that way would be best. Create a well rounded presentation that clearly explains the thought process, the research, what the person should feel, what should be done, and what the result will be.

Presentations are a critical part of conducting business. From early-stage startups looking to find their first customers or investors to the experienced company making their thousandth sales pitch, everyone needs to know how to develop a top notch presentation. Just like no working screenwriter is going to question their choice of font, companies should focus less on their platform options and more on their content. Sometimes, however, creating visual aids for the presentation can be taxing and difficult. Consulting with a professional to get their opinion on particular aspects or help polishing up the finished product can be the best way to ensure the slides offer all they can. When the future of the company is on the line, making sure everything is the highest quality is always the number one priority.