How to Present With Clarity


When pitching your business or product, you only have a small amount of time to make a positive impression. A recent study from DocSend reveals that founders who focused on setting a clear, compelling narrative at the start of their presentations enjoyed greater success with venture capitalists and faced less scrutiny in later stages.

A great presentation demonstrates knowledge of the audience and uses stories and visuals to engage them, says Michael Roth of Present Clearly, who draws on his experiences pitching at major tech companies to help startups become better presenters. At the March 18 installment of Tech Park Academy, Roth shared his best practices for developing powerful presentations. 

Make waves with a presentation that highlights your message and concisely conveys value to your specific audience. Here’s how. 

Plan to Connect With Your Audience

Devote the bulk of your prep time to thinking about the problem your presentation should solve. Answer the big questions: Why should your audience care? What are they trying to achieve? Identify ideal outcomes both for you and your audience. If possible, engage in discovery by conversing beforehand, getting a sense of what they’re hoping to get from you. If you know your audience’s specific needs, you can align your presentation to match.

Build a Compelling Presentation

Shape your words carefully to land your message. If you’re able to talk to people ahead of time, mirror their language in your presentation. “Make an investment here, and it will pay dividends,” Roth says. Be brief, and lay out your content to support natural transitions. Include stories in your talk track to help your audience remember information. Plan for open-ended questions to engage them throughout.

Slides should complement your message, not carry it. Don’t overcrowd slides, either. “Too many words are just a distraction,” Roth says. Follow the three-second rule: Your audience should be able to interpret a slide within three seconds. Use simple images and titles that create impact.

Avoid the “feature tour.” Your demo should use stories to convey the specific value this particular audience would like to see. 

Prepare to Project Enthusiasm

Practice giving your presentation ahead of time. Catch glimpses of yourself in a mirror to get a sense of your “default look,” or what others will see immediately when they meet you. Try to appear open and enthusiastic. Film yourself giving the presentation to review your stance and language. Your stance should be open but not too animated. 

Watch for filler words such as “um,” “uh” or “like.” We use these to fill silences, but a moment of silence is more authoritative. Avoid using a script. Listeners can tell when you’re not speaking naturally, and losing your place could derail your entire presentation. You can keep notes in front of you, but focus on being conversational.

Whether you’re presenting in person or virtually, test your tech beforehand. Reboot your computer, reset your router, and ensure your camera is functioning properly.

Deliver on Your Presentation’s Promise

When presenting, keep a notebook on hand to jot down interesting questions and notes. This demonstrates your investment in the audience. If in-person, have business cards ready so you don’t have to dig through your bag for one when someone asks. Stand to present, and bring your best default look. Make it a priority to engage the audience with open-ended questions, especially if you’re presenting virtually.

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