A good rule for presentations using slides is to follow the 10-20-30 rule suggested by Guy Kawasaki. Ten slides, 20 minutes, 30 point font. This idea works.
A good pitch can easily be covered in ten slides. I learned as I started implementing and perfecting this rule that most of the time I could get my material comfortably into three slides. In order to do that you have to know your subject matter cold. You should never rely on presentations as your queue for what to say. That is how we get to those enormous slide decks in the first place. We, on the sales end, are loaded with information we think will convince and move someone to action. On the other hand, the person listening to us is really in a state of courtesy. He or she granted us an audience, but they are not necessarily convinced we have a real solution to their problem yet. These people naturally want to minimize their time investment because they are very busy. Accommodate them and get to the point quickly.
When you do good research, listen carefully, and ask good questions, the content on the slides will be less important because you will have that information already well-stored in your mind. As a result, rather than putting the focus on the slide-show, you will be able to keep the focus on you and the interactive dialogue needed in order to pick up on buying signals or important objections.
The most impressive sales process I ever witnessed occurred on a very large deal we worked on with a multi-billion dollar telecommunications company. We used two slides, talked for 60 minutes, and this was done with a group of 8+ senior managers sitting around a table. At the end, we were enthusiastically moved to the next level of the buying process for additional discussions. What really impresses me with that presentation is that we did not even use the computer. The two slides were printed. We walked them through the slides. Interestingly, those senior leaders were fixated on those two relatively simple pieces of paper. They focused much harder on the content of those pages than they would have if they were watching a magic screen with fun animations and a few poor attempts to be funny. This was a powerful lesson. Be concise. Be real. Be alert. Connect to your audience. Presentations done over the computer on a big screen rarely achieve those aims. Find ways to be personable and highly interactive.
In another situation, as the Vice President of Information Technology Operations, I had to help the CEO of a company understand why moving to a Voice over IP solution would be valuable. The CEO had a feeling it would be important, but he did not know how or why. I used three slides to communicate the complexities, the nature of the benefit, and the potential implementation strategy. The reason the method of using very few slides works with senior leaders is they do not have time to focus on a ton of detail. In the same way, having few slides gives you great control. If you put too much content into the slide it may cause the audience to drift into areas that are tangential and not relevant to the mutual agenda. The best thing is to keep your audience focused on precisely the issues at hand by keeping slides to a minimum and only use them to augment what you are saying.
You might want to watch Guy Kawasaki’s presentation on this topic to Stanford students at this link Click Here. Guy is a great presenter and entertainer. This short video is worth watching.