How to turn your Pre-read into a Presentation in less than 10 minutes
How many times have you listened to a presentation where you can read the slides faster than the speaker can speak?
Too many to count.
We all know that stockpiling sentences onto slides is not the ideal approach.
But as the author, you don’t have time to make two different decks. Time is money!
I ran into this problem repeatedly, so developed a system that saves me hours and keeps the audience engaged.
Here are a few tricks to turn that proposal into something ready to present, in less than ten minutes.
First things first, fewer words.
Your goal in going from pre-read to presentation is simple: say it in fewer words.
The more information your customer gets from you and the less they have to read off of a slide, the more trust that is built, and the more likely they are to buy.
Yet, you also need slides to guide the conversation and provide support for what you’re saying.
Your slides should be your backup ensemble, not the lead singer.
To add some numbers to it, I’ll share some stats from a recent pre-read proposal I wrote over 17 slides. The total wordcount? 1799 words.
After less than ten minutes, I had it ready to present in person.
Still 17 slides, one idea at a time. But this version had only 304 words.
How did I cut out 83% of the words in less than ten minutes?
Here are a few tips that you can implement as you set up your decks for a “2-in-1" approach to deck building.
Step 1. Split Text Boxes
For each idea in your Pre-Read, you should have two separate kinds of text boxes: a SubTitle that captures the main idea, and a short paragraph of explanation or evidence.
If that explanatory paragraph is longer than three lines, use selective bolding to guide your reader’s eye to the most important points.
To make it Presentation-ready, simply delete this “lowest tier” of information. Your customer wants to hear that from you, not read it off the slide:
Now, you’re in the driver’s seat again.
Your slide offers guideposts for the conversation, not a replacement for it.
Step 2. Save the Punchline
In a Pre-Read deck, you should be able to read your story aloud just from the taglines and it should make sense.
Each title makes an argument, and tells the reader where to focus:
But in a presentation, I want to deliver the punchline, not my slide.
This is the most time-consuming part of the process, because it’s not a simple Select + Delete.
You have to be thoughtful about turning that sentence into a subject:
With a simple description of the subject (here: Stick’s text-to-visual tool), the slide tells us what we’re talking about. But it saves the punch — the why — for the speaker.
Step 3. Swap Summaries for Maps
The agenda slide is perhaps the most important slide in your deck — it lays out the objectives and approach of your conversation.
Yet, it is often the most boring.
Here is your chance to capture your customer, and they’re already reading the slide and moving ahead (“Wait what’s that pricing number? Let’s go there first.”):
The way I solve this is chunking the Executive Summary into categories for the pre-read, like so:
But when translating the into an agenda, simply deleting the text boxes and turning the categories into a high level map:
Relying on visuals, rather than bullets, for your agenda keeps the conversation flexible and preserves curiosity for the customer.
You don’t want to give away the ending!
Step 4. Loosen the Linear Layouts
We read left to right, top to bottom.
But we talk in roundabouts and circuitous paths.
Shape your slides accordingly.
For example, in laying out a slide with four points, I’ve arranged them left to right: 1,2,3,4. The sub points read top to bottom, making it easy to read:
But when you’re presenting, no one wants to go through KPIs one by one. You would sound like a robot.
A simple switch from a left-to-right line into a grid allows for more flexible conversation. You can focus where your customer wants to, rather than drill them with information:
These are a few ways I’ve tried to build the practice of splitting pre-reads and presentations to keep customers engaged.
What are some of your hacks? What impact have you seen? How does your team turn your pre-reads into presentations?
About the Author: Alli McKee helps companies develop their strategic messaging and brings it to life with visual design. After years creating strategic stories as a consultant at Bain & Company and designing visually at IDEO.org and as an artist, she’s working with B2B sales and marketing organizations to help them win more business. Through strategy, story, and design, her work enables companies to make their ideas sell — and stick.
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