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Overview: PPT Best Practices

A critical part of any sales presentation is the ability to convey a message in a concise, powerful, and memorable way. Numerous tips and best practices for creating PowerPoint sales pitches are offered on a variety of websites, and include limiting your presentation to 10 slides and 20 minutes; providing clear, direct information regarding your product or service, backed up with credible data; incorporating visuals; and ending with a Call to Action. What follows is a list of practices that are often mentioned and recommended in creating such presentations.

10/20/30 RULE

Venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki has developed what he calls the "10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint". Having heard hundreds of pitches from entrepreneurs, his perspective is valuable as it presents the point-of-view of the target audience on the receiving end of sales pitches. The rule states that a PowerPoint presentation should be limited to "ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points."

Key content areas to be covered are: a problem and solution to the problem at hand; the business model and financials; underlying technologies to be used; and marketing plans. In addition, relevant timelines, identification of members of the team, forecasts, and a review of existing competition should be included. An article with similar recommendations suggests an eleventh slide (to be presented first) covering your vision and value proposition. This would be a one sentence overview of your business and the value it provides.

In a separate article, Kawasaki compares sales pitches to online dating. This analogy is more applicable to preparing for the pitch and assuring follow-up rather than actually creating the PowerPoint presentation.


Brian Tracy is a well-known expert on sales training, having authored more than 60 books and produced hundreds of audio and video learning programs on sales, management, and business success. He highlights how to craft meaningful messages by:

* Keeping it simple by presenting core ideas only,
* Providing concrete, specific information,
* Demonstrating credibility by including hard data, expert quotes, etc., and
* Highlighting beneficial features of your product or service.

Tracy stresses quality over quantity, and agrees that such presentations should be no more than 20 minutes in length.


University of Washington biologist John Medina has extensively researched persuasion techniques and how the brain processes information. Among his findings, he notes, "We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you'll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you'll remember 65%."

Visual and interactive images are powerful. Video helps keep an audience engaged, as 43% of people prefer greater video content that helps demonstrate a product or service in a way that words or photographs can't.


There are differing opinions as to the use of bullet points in PowerPoint presentations. Most authors discourage their use, and the most compelling argument comes from Google's CEO Sundar Pichai. "Since stories are best told with pictures, bullet points and text-heavy slides are increasingly avoided at Google," Pichai said at a recent conference. He presents slides that tell a story and are uncluttered. For example, one slide featured only the logos for Google's seven primary products with the text "1 Billion+ Users." The slide clearly conveyed that Google's products are used by more than 1 billion monthly users.

TED Curator Chris Anderson writes, "Those classic PowerPoint slide decks with a headline followed by multiple bullet points of long phrases are the surest single way to lose an audience's attention altogether." Much of what is being shared with the audience should be presented in visual images and verbally for long-lasting impact.


Finally, a pitch deck must include a Call to Action. Next steps required by the audience or decision maker is crucial in wrapping up your presentation and tying it all together. Creating a sense of urgency provides clear direction on moving the process forward.


Examples of 35 highly regarded pitch decks that were presented at Y Combinator 2017 may be helpful in developing your pitch deck. These include:
* iControl (#11), which used an interactive slide deck to demonstrate the problem of too many documents,
* Cardlife (#15), which demonstrated their credibility by boasting about being named a “Top 5 SaaS Product” by a trusted third-party.
* Trym (#21), which explains a complex product in a simple, step-by-step fashion, and
* Mojilala (#28), which explained their tremendous growth.


Wrapping up, concise, clear content accompanies by engaging visuals are a key part of successful PowerPoint sales presentations. Limiting the number of slides to 10-11 and providing credible content, summed up with a Call to Action, are among best practices for slide decks.

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