Time is money. The medium is the message. A picture is worth a thousand words. Our society has a lot of ingrained ideas about communication. But whether you're trying to convince your boss to implement a new software feature or you've somehow ended up on Shark Tank, you have a limited amount of time to get your point across. So rather than testing every approach, just follow the tips in this article. We'll show you when visual aids are appropriate and how to successfully incorporate them into any pitch.
1) Know the dos and don'ts of visual aids Do:
- Remember the "aid" part. Visuals are there to enhance your points, not to distract from or substitute for the message.
- Tell the audience what you're going to tell (and show) them. When people know what to expect, they tend to be more patient and engaged.
- Ask yourself, "Is this visual for me or for my audience?" If it's for you, odds are that you need to practice more.
- Practice your entire presentation from start to finish. Many experts recommend doing this at least 4 times and at least once in front of an audience.
- To leave an impression on your audience, consider a leave-behind or a handout. Just make sure that it's germane to your message and enhances, rather than detracts from, the presentation.
- Spend time on your visual aids. Mary Sandro, a professional presentation trainer, advises, "Let the nature of the presentation dictate how far you will go to secure fresh-looking graphics. For high profile or high opportunity presentations, more time, money, and effort should be placed on creating visual aid graphics." Here's a great example of a presentation where the visual aids actually enhance the message:
- Stand in front of your visual aids or with your back to the audience.
- Rush through your slides or aids, especially if they're crucial to your story development. Audiences tend to pay more attention to videos, images, and physical objects, so slow down and give them time to appreciate the artifacts.
- Think that visual aids are appropriate for every pitch. If you meet the investor of your dreams, it may be better to verbally sketch out your business plan than rifle through your phone's picture gallery to find that perfect image. In other contexts, like demoing a video game or film concept, polished visual aids can be essential.
- Incorporate visual aids just for the sake of using them. Make sure that every aid is carefully chosen and placed.
2) Use visual aids early in the development stage Chances are, you've realized that your idea is more complicated that it appears. So how do you break down the complexities into bite-sized pieces? Forbes contributor Carmine Gallo recommends using a message map (also known as a concept map or mind map) to develop a compelling, super-short pitch. This method is easy to build up from 5 seconds to 5 minutes or longer. Simply expand your map outward and fill it with the most relevant and interesting details.
You can use pen and paper, a whiteboard, or a program like Lucidchart to organize your ideas. Using a web-based program has its advantages: Your updates are saved constantly, you can easily share your work with anyone in the world, and many programs utilize features like hotkeys and preset themes to create professional-looking diagrams in a flash. Of course, many prefer old-fashioned methods because they're easy to use and have a nonexistent learning curve.
3) Develop a variety of pitch lengths Author Scott Berkun wrote a fantastic article about pitching that every artist or entrepreneur should read. He recommends developing a range of pitches: 5 seconds long, 15 seconds long, and a 5 minute version. Mr. Berkun says,
Start with your shortest pitch. Then provide the next level of detail down. And finally, the core of the paper or written proposal is a point by point detailing of how, giving the money & resources you need, you’ll achieve what you described in the 5 second pitch. Also, remember that you won’t always have all of your materials with you when pitching ideas. At least briefly consider how you’d deal with the following different kinds of situations, and with the different asset limitations you’d have in each case.
- The elevator – you.
- The slow elevator – you, maybe something to show from your pockets.
- The lunch – (you , maybe something to show, napkins to draw on, alcohol)
- The conference room meeting – (laptop / slides / handout)
- The executive review – (laptop / slides / handout / yes-men / splunge-men)
Berkun doesn't address the fact that nowadays, many people have 24/7 access to a smartphone. Mobile apps like SlideRocket and Lucidchart can communicate your ideas in a dynamic way. For example, Lucidchart gives you the ability to create flowcharts, timelines, mockups, wireframes, and life-like demos. With a flawless message and the right tools, you can deliver a perfect pitch every time.