Making outstanding 5 minute presentations!

Sanjay Swamy, Managing Partner, Prime Venture Partners @theswamy

If you’re like what most tech entrepreneurs are (including myself), you’re most likely a geek who makes slides with a terrible choice of colors and fonts; and demos with a two-column table! When you get an opportunity to present, you get overwhelmed and end up spending more time about the problem you’re trying to solve rather than the actual solution. In the process you end-up with a disinterested audience and come to the conclusion that “they just don’t get it”!

Well, here’s a dose of reality. They do not get it, and it’s YOUR fault!

So, how do you change that?

Some people are gifted with excellent visual presentation skills, some with a sense of humor and then there are still others who have an impactful personality that makes them stand out from the crowd. However most of us mortals don’t have any of the above. And when we do try and imitate others, we’re simply not ourselves. The resulting presentations therefore tend to be even less effective.

Is there a magic formula — a template? Here are some tips.

The most effective presentations follow the below structure:

1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them
2. Tell them
3. Tell them you told them

Let’s take an example of an imaginary startup, EzRemit, that has developed a low-cost cross-border money transfer service — faster, easier to use and less expensive than the traditional services such as Western Union. Here is what this pitch could be:

1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them (60 seconds)

A simple script below along with 1 slide is all you need. The slide could simply say:


· 20 Million People -> 20 Billion Dollars/year to India alone

· Cost of 3–5%

· EzRemit brings this cost down to 1%

And the script could simply be:

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen. My name is John Doe and I’m the founder and CEO of EzRemit. Did you know that 20 Million people transfer 20 Billion dollars every year to India and it costs them between 3% and 5% to do so? We think there should be a better way and have developed EzRemit, a service that will make money transfer simpler and cheaper for as low as 1%. I’m going to give you a quick product demonstration and describe some salient features and benefits of our approach.”

2. Tell Them (180 seconds)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words — well, a demo is worth a thousand pictures. In today’s day and age, a live demo is what one would expect. Its really important to have a live demo or at least a video of your demo which is less impactful but real. To get your demo right, download the right software so that you can connect your phone or tablet to a laptop and show it on the big-screen projector. It’s easy to do — so please take the time to figure it out and do it right.

While it is important to have the demo do most of the talking for you, you should set things up well. Always setup a scenario that people can relate to. For example in this case I would say, “Let’s take an example of Ram, an Indian working in Dubai. Ram has a family in Kerala and he sends $1000 home every month. Today, he has to spend half a day worth of his time and it costs him 3% to transfer the money to India. Let me show you how his world would be with EzRemit.”

To do the demo effectively, explain the demo to people. Explain what they are seeing, what role you are playing, and what role your partner is playing, and what it would be in the real world. Take your time as people need to understand the assumptions before you show them the demo.

Make sure all the data to be entered is pre-filled so you aren’t bumbling around with 100s of eyeballs staring at you. At the same time, make sure it isn’t a canned demo. Wherever possible, involve someone from the audience, for e.g. ask someone in the audience for a mobile number to send an SMS receipt to.

Once the demo is done successfully, its important to quickly summarize what people saw.

3) Tell them you told them (60 seconds)

This is a highly under-rated phase of a presentation but its absolutely critical to get this right. In the above example, you could simply summarize what you showed by saying,

“Just to recap, we at EzRemit have developed a mobile-based solution that allows you to transfer money globally at a fraction of the cost. I demonstrated to you a use case of an Indian living in Dubai who sent money to his family in India with 3 clicks and saved 2% in the process. I also demonstrated the messages received by the recipients in India. The product is now in a beta testing phase and will be going live in January. We are really excited about what we have achieved here — and how this has the potential to truly make an impact in people’s lives. I’m sure you share our excitement and thank you for your time and attention. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.”

If you can do this in a succinct manner, you would’ve nailed your demo and presentation.

I urge every entrepreneur to try and get this right because you only get one chance to make a first impression — make it count!