Questions to ask yourself before presenting an idea:
Have I determined that there is in fact a need for this service from basic interviewing and market research?
Am I ready to collect names and potentially use the help of interested strangers and power players? Do I want help?
Do I have a clear idea for my end goal that I can show visually and explain verbally?
Do I have a PowerPoint slideshow, video, or other visually engaging element to share?
Am I comfortable talking about this enough that I can answer questions without getting flustered? Am I ready to accept feedback?
Action Step: Answer the questions above. You don’t need to have answered “Yes” for each of these. If you have the first two yes’s above, keep reading to help develop clarity in your goal, comfort with the delivery of the idea to others, and tips for accepting feedback and using it to improve your presentation until you are ready to take it to a pitching phase.
How and why to share this idea with friends and family
Many people choose to start presenting their ideas to close friends, mentors, tight-lipped coworkers, or trusted former schoolmates before they take it to a larger audience.
Why do we do this?
Because oftentimes our friends and family spare our egos, and give us the positive reinforcement we need to keep on track. Just as importantly, our most trusted friends and advisors can give us the critiques or ask those tough first questions that make us think – and rethink – our approach. They may dispel or challenge presumptions you make.
Thinking more makes the business idea better. You can smooth out wrinkles after just a few low-stake presentations to people that are pretty easy to pull together.
How to go about it:
Invite a friend or two to a space where you can display or demonstrate the problems you need to set up, so you can juxtapose them with your proposed solution. Unexpected escapes are a great way to tackle it and get attention – meet a couple friends for lunch at a location you’re considering using for a mobile greenmarket, for example.
Let the listeners know why you have chosen to talk to them – and make sure that getting their feedback is one of those reasons. If you don’t really want it yet, don’t start presenting.
Opting out of visuals and slideshows is possible early on, especially if you meet people at lunch or at a site that demonstrates your project. Just don’t sell yourself – ie. your business – short. This is a great time to start practicing those methods you will need in a formal space, and getting comfortable with the technology, your voice, your body and your presentation style.
Action Step: Come up with 3-5 people you trust and feel safe/comfortable with. Pick a date. Send them each an email inviting them to listen to your “presentation.” Be sure to let them know what to expect and your intentions, so that they can come prepared and be helpful.
How to deal with feedback from early presentations
Write it down, or better yet, record it. Invite the information your early listeners offer and stay open-minded. For added value - or the very brave - you could record people reacting to your presentation, so you can look for other clues or information from their faces or gestures, as they listen to or see you idea for the first time. They may not say something to you directly, but you can see how they react or maybe, fail to react to it.
Remember: Your idea is ready for the feedback and so are you, but you still may feel things during your early feedback sessions. It’s important to keep in mind that it’s better to catch some problems now rather than later when there are more people involved and you’re using up precious funds. Blow off steam when you’re out of the situation, if you need to. Or cry. Let it marinate for a while.
Review those notes you took when ready. If you don’t keep track of what people said, or who said it, you don’t have a way to follow-up if you’re having a hard time understanding the problem they pointed when you’re making changes later.
Talking publicly about your project
Why you present:
Your motives for presenting the idea could be any of the following:
finding helpers or a tribe
applying for permits
engineering needs or other development planning
obtaining various types of funding
engagement of community or end-stage beneficiaries
research as to how to expand, change, or limit the project
All of these motives are tangible, and necessary reasons to present outside of a close-knit group.
Here’s the real reason it’s important to start talking publicly: You need to get very comfortable with describing and discussing what your vision is. With that comfort, comes a sense of authority and knowledge that you are doing the right thing. Make it impossible for people to not get on board when the time comes to pitch your idea. (Note: Pitching a business plan is different than presenting one. More about that later.)
The second most important thing – next to you gaining confidence in telling others why the world needs this business idea right now – is getting feedback.
The input and questions that come from others, especially people you trust to be honest with you, is the most high-value thing you’ll gain in this whole process. And it’s free of charge. Re-read the section above for more on how to use feedback to help your plan develop.
The people who need to hear about the idea are not what’s most important. Really! Eventually they will be, and you will face a never-ending line of people who need to see you present your idea. This stage is about gaining the confidence you need first.
It’s nice to have family and trusted people backing your plan, but strangers who don’t know you at a personal level will make up the bulk of your customers and clients, no matter what your business goal is. You need to get a positive response from strangers to know that the risk you’re taking will pay off in the end.
Presentations in multimedia formats
There will come a time when using visualizations to aid the presentation of your idea will be helpful and even necessary, depending on who you’re presenting to and the stage of your project. Here are a few guidelines and resources in doing so.
Using Powerpoint to present your idea
There are many experts who have written about, studied, and opined on what makes a brilliant presentation.
Venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki blogged that he sees hundreds of presentations each year, and is another great thinker on the topic. We’ve boiled down a few best practices from him to make it easy for you to nail down the succinct, captivating presentation you need to sell your idea.
Top 10 Points Method
This method offers a very simple set of instructions – the 10 points – for the things you need in a presentation. He suggests not to stray from this. It’s better to get to the point than pile on more information or leave too many questions.
Marketing and sales
Projections and milestones
Status and timeline
Summary and call to action
The 10/20/30 Method
Kawasaki posits that a PowerPoint presentation should have 10 slides, lasts no more than 20 minutes, and contain no font smaller than 30 points.
The 7 x 7 Method
The 7 x 7 PowerPoint rule is an oldie but a goodie, and attempts to balance the problem of having too much information on a slide against the issue of having too little.
What it means:
7 lines of text per slide and no more than
7 words per line, with a 25 word-per-slide maximum.
The point is, use fewer words or a phrase to emphasize or reinforce an idea. Think of your audience – it’s easier for them to read, understand, and remember what they saw, later.
Some suggest no more than 3 lines per slide, and 6 words per slide. A discussion on Stack Overflow Academic questions if the method has any solid evidence backing it.
When to use a slideshow or Powerpoint and when to use video
PowerPoint or slideshows are usually designed to be shared in a setting where you can dictate and deliver the core material in person.
While online mediums like SlideShare are made to publicly distribute ideas, in a case where what you’re designing is likely to be proprietary – or, contain elements that you alone are hoping to gain funding for against possible competitors – it’s not yet the time to make a widely public show of what you are aiming for. Unless you’re ready for crowdfunding. Which is another story.
Slideshows should merely offer visual clues and evocative examples, hopefully in an arresting way. Videos are convenient for unassisted viewing or enlistment of support around your project. If you want to widely share what you are doing, even to an impersonal, selective group of viewers, you may want to go with a video.
Strategically, videos can be helpful in another way. Slideshows and PowerPoint presentations, in certain audiences, can lend themselves to interruption or truncation. If an aggressive-assertive listener wants to pipe up with questions in the middle of it, or someone has a problem with a presumption, it can get derailed or delayed. While video does not allow you to tailor an experience for different audiences it does lend itself to being watched uninterrupted. Many people are simply more accustomed to passively watching a video than a slideshow presentation.
Presenting to outsiders
How to dress
The way you dress when you publicly present your idea comes down to two things; the goal of the interaction, and the audience you are trying to appeal to.
If you are asking for money, or the trust of a larger company, dressing conservative may be the way to go.
If your goal is to gain followers and stimulate interest, maybe staying true to your roots is a better approach.
Most important of all – be comfortable. Don’t wear the skirt and boots if you know the pants feel better. Skip the fedora, unless it happens to be your secret weapon.
Clothing is subjective, but confidence is not. Learn what you can about the audience, and the environment, and try to find a win given what you know before you go.
What is a pitch and how is it different than a presentation?
A pitch is why you’ve mastered the art of presenting.
After you know what your idea is for, and have honed in on the core points, you may be ready to approach power players. A pitch is when you bring your idea to a person or institution that has the power to do something about it. It’s a level of presentation that gets to the most important parts of the idea’s goals, and explains enough about who you are, and your motives, to convince others to jump onboard.
You may need to make a pitch to a buyer, or a lender, or a future partner. But it’s helpful to think of much of your outreach for non-monetary support as a pitch too. Your strongest allies can be the very first users, testers, and contributing staff.
This wraps up our best practices on presenting your idea. By now, you should have a better understanding of when and why it’s time to present your idea, to whom, and the best practices to do so. You should also feel more equipped to plan your presentation.