If a PowerPoint is Bad, it’s the Messenger, Not the Medium

Many have wished for and striven for the death of the powerpoint presentation.  I have always disagreed with this point of view.  There is no doubt that most power point decks are terrible and yes, should be killed.  However, it isn’t “Power Point” that is the problem, it’s the author!  Power Point is fine canvas to use to tell the story of your venture.  Just do it right and it will not be painful.

Lots of founders have asked me over the years to create a template for an effective investor power point.  And, having yet again sat through one of the worst I’ve ever seen last week, I decided it was time to finally do it.  However…do not just rush off to the attached template!  Take a quick look at some of my recommendations below first…and then rush off to the attached template. I even stuck the link to the template AT THE BOTTOM of the page so you have to at least skim through the recommendations first!

1) Most investors have a relatively broad level of technology and industry knowledge, but their depth in any given technology or any given industry will not be as deep as yours.  If they can’t keep up with your presentation because it provides too much technology detail, or too much acronym-laden jargon, that is YOUR fault not theirs. Your goal is to present your BUSINESS PLAN, not your technology.

2) Put yourself in the seat of the viewer/listener.  This is not a lecture where you are trying prove how smart you are or educate your audience about how some novel technology works.  You are trying to convince investors that you have a plan to generate sales and profits by selling things of value to a given group of customers.  Tell a story…don’t give a lecture.

3) There is a difference between a “presentation” and a “performance”.  Many demo days and pitches to audiences should NOT follow the format I’ve suggested.  Basically, if you are going to be 1) on a stage and 2) literally have a spotlight on you, you need an image-rich group of slides with almost no text at all.  These are more “performance” than “presentation”.  Think, TED talk type…don’t use the attached for that.  If instead, you have more of a “meeting” oriented session with a smaller group of attendees, the attached “presentation” format should be a fair guide.

4) Use 2 minutes per slide as your guide.  I don’t mean “about 2 minutes” per slide. I mean absolutely NOT more than 2 minutes per slide. Under any circumstance. This means if you have an investor meeting in which you’re given “about 20 minutes”…10-15 slides is your max, with some slides obviously less than 2 minutes.

5) My opinion is that the emphasis of every investor presentation should be oriented more  on customer segments than on your  product.  Businesses exist to deliver value to customers, not to simply develop technology.  I know, I know.  The truth is that you very well may have developed your technology with only vague thought as to the market to target.  If that’s true, then lie to me.  Tell me you first understood a market need and THEN developed the technology to address it.

6) When you’ve prepared your slides, rehearse them numerous times.  The most important thing is to use the slide as a queue, not a crutch.  Do not read content…do not worry about saying the exact words that are on the screen. Your discussion should be more or less summarizing what the very few words on the screen also say.

7) Some slides work well if they are revealed one piece at a time.  For example, if you have a slide with a graphic that summarizes your sales pipeline, and you have, say, 5 major elements of that graphic, break the single slide into 5 with each slide in the series adding another section of the graphic until slide 5, when all the pieces are visible.  This way, the viewer/listener can view and listen at the same pace you’re talking!  If you dump a complex graphic on the screen all at once (see the picture!), the viewer in us tries to take it all in while the listener in us is getting only information on on the first piece. This may add to the number of slides in your deck…but some of them will go much faster since you’re showing pieces of the whole.

8) When you’re done…look at each slide individually.  If you are sitting in the back of a darkened room with no to only-moderate knowledge of the subject and a hundred other things in your day to think about, is the slide comprehensible.  Be honest! We’ve ALL sat through terrible power points.  Remember what made them terrible and work to avoid the reasons why they were terrible. I mean it…look at each slide on its own!

Thanks for reading through those tips first! Feel free to email or comment if you have a question or challenge to anything above or anything in the template!

Template for an Investor Preso

Wayne Barz is Manager of Entrepreneurial Services for Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Follow Wayne’s blog at or on Twitter @TechonomicMan.