Why all presentations should be like pitch decks. And how to achieve it

Have you ever sat in a meeting where the presenter just repeated the slides and hence, seemed redundant? Did you ever feel a PowerPoint is abused as a text document with far too many sentences and too small fonts? And have you ever left a presentation not knowing what the key message was despite all the great formulations and jargon?


The more I have been hearing pitch decks from start-up companies and incubators, the more I realised how boring and ineffective most corporate slides are. It’s not a new enlightenment and I have to take my blame too. However, every time I see a few pitch decks again I wonder why we agonise each other in the corporate world with our slide wars. Here is how to fix it:

“The speaker is the show,
slides support the presenter”


1) What makes pitch decks role models

  • Start-up firms get only a few minutes to present their key message. In order to grab the investors’ attention, the presenter is forced to keep everything short, clear and to the point

  • The speaker is the show, slides support the presenter and are not in rivalry. For the audience, it’s easy to listen and watch at the same time

  • Investors often see several presentations in a row. To make the pitch memorable very simple wording is used. This helps to digest the content quickly and more importantly remember the key message


“Let’s make corporate slides and
presentations fun again”



2) How to improve corporate slides


Keep the slides brief, simple and easy

  • Keep your speech brief. Put only one message per slide. This helps the audience better digest what they see. On your slides use short and even reduced phrases. “Barnes old-timer cars: we buy, refurbish and sell” is sufficient to convey the message

  • Use simple wording. You don’t want to lose attention while your audience tries to understand and connect the dots. Avoid vague formulations. “We will streamline our approval process to become more efficient and effective” doesn’t say much. “We will eliminate half of our approval steps to finish a request in 2 days” gives the audience a better idea

  • Design your slides light and easy. Don’t overload them with too much information. Put large fonts. Use graphs that are readable also from the second row. If a graph contains many numbers, zoom or circle the key area. Make headline numbers easy to remember.  Instead of “63%-71% of our customers believe…”, write “two-thirds of our customers believe…”. Or instead of “9 years ago…”, use “almost a decade ago…”.


The rule of three


Many studies proof that grouping information in chunks of three helps memorise the essentials faster and longer

  • Group your information in chunks of three whenever possible. Why not keeping the agenda as simple as “Problem, Solution, Next Steps”? Use three key assumptions to support your solution. If you need more bullets to describe the next steps just build two groups. I.e. short-term steps and long-term steps; add three bullets under each group

  • For your main message also use three key words. Airbnb for example uses “save money, make money, share culture” to describe its value proposition. Apple is famous for using the rule of three in its announcements, which are often organised around three new products, three new features or three new upgrades

  • Embed your overall key message three times in your speech or slide deck. In the beginning, in the middle and at the end. It will stick with your listeners long after they have left


Design the hand-outs directly into your slide-deck


The dilemma of most presentations are the hand-outs you have to deliver after your speech or without having the speech at all. Your brief, simple and easy slides are great for those who did attend your presentation. However, if your slides must also satisfy offline readers, you might be tempted to add a lot of text and explanations again. This punishes your live audience and makes your slides heavy again. There are three solutions to that:

  • First option: use the speaker/presenter notes section for all your slides. In Microsoft’s Power Point and Apple’s Keynote software this option allows you to add all the text and details you want to convey. It keeps your main slides light. During the presentation, you (and only you) can see the notes if activated. It will help you remember the talking-points while your audience will see the clean slides. After the presentation, you can then distribute or print the original slides including all the notes. Alternatively, you can create a PDF without your notes and distribute exactly what the audience had seen during your speech. Like this you can use the same slides for many speeches without foreclosing what you are going to say

  • Second option: alternate your slides among high level views and detailed text. For example, create your 1st main slide with your key message and visualisation. Use your 2nd slide for your detailed explanations and source references. The 3rd main slide contains your next message and visualisation, while your 4th slide contains all the required detailed text again and so on. With the hide feature, hide all text rich slides during your presentation. It’s what you are going to talk about anyway. After the presentation, you have the possibility to either distribute all slides or only the main slides

  • Third option: if you must create text rich slides, try using dark grey for your standard text. Then use black and bold for your key words and key sentences. This sets them better apart from the rest and acts like focus points



“Less is more,
simple is better,
easy wins”



3) What you gain

  • Visually clean and uncluttered slides will raise your audience’s interest for your presentation

  • Text lean slides will prevent the public from reading while you are talking and hence, will move the focus to you, the speaker

  • Your audience will leave with pleasant emotions rather than feeling smashed

Let’s make corporate slides and presentations fun again. Less is more, simple is better, easy wins.


Chris Frey @chrisfrey.com