Monday, October 26, 2009

The art of pitching and presenting

I had an opportunity to hear an awesome lecture last week by Ken Zolot in 6.078. The topic of the class was pitching and presenting. Ken started with "Zolot's law of three nines". Per the law, Ken explained it takes 9 seconds for a person hearing the presentation to develop a gut feel, 90 seconds to hear an elevator pitch and 9 minutes to get the gist of the presentation.

I picked up several very useful tips:

- The well written headline must be terse yet descriptive

Example of a good headline: "Yahoo's profits triple despite sales decline"
Example of a bad headline: "Something went wrong in plane crash, experts say"

- Slides distract the audience from what the speaker is saying. To get the audience's undivided attention, blanking the screen is a good idea. The keyboard shortcut to mute the screen is "b" (blank the screen?)

- If the slides in a ppt are numbered, simply key in the page number followed by enter to jump to the slide. Not only does it make navigation easier, it conveys the impression that the speaker is an expert on the subject matter if they can jump to the right slide, without needing to scroll through and scan each slide.

- Skip the table of contents and use an executive summary instead.

- Be aware of what's on the screen during breaks and Q&A. Use this opportunity to display slides that could not be presented within the time constraints of the main presentation, and perhaps strategically nudge the conversation in the right direction.

- Anticipate questions and discuss them before they're vocalized. This makes the presenter appear knowledgeable and thoughtful, and lends extra credibility. For example: "One question you might have at this point is.... what we did to address this is..."

- Know how to say "I don't know" gracefully, and never say "it depends" which is a typical b-school response. One way to do this gracefully is to say "We haven't explored that option yet".

- Margin analysis is a great way to share information about cost advantages from multiple sources over a competitor's operations. It's much easier to absorb, and makes for easy comparison.

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