Help your audience understand your presentation

Marketers revolve around customers, insights, plans, and strategies. No matter who you are in business, you always attend or deliver presentations. With some experience of delivering and attending presentations, I thought of sharing some of my learnings here for the benefit of others and myself.

I happen to attend and deliver some marketing presentations and some of the common responses at the end of the presentations are: I lost my way in the middle of the presentation, I couldn’t understand what he meant, I didn’t understand what point he wants to make, what a boring presentation, I felt like – so what?, etc…

My experience says that in most presentations fifty percent of the audience don’t understand your presentation, and fifty percent of those who understand don’t find it relevant to them, and of those who find it relevant don’t know what to do with the information.

Let your audience understand your presentation

The last thing that you want from your audience is them not understanding your presentation.  The best way to make them understand is SAY IT, SAY IT and again SAY IT.

Understand the Objective(s):

  1. What is the objective of your audience to attend this presentation?
  2. What is your objective to deliver this presentation? (If you’re not addressing the question 1 here, you are wasting the audience time.)
  3. Does your presentation help the client in achieving his objective?
  4. Always ask for expectations from the presentation.  Inform them which expectations can be met from this presentation, and which cannot be met and how to deal with them. Tell them upfront the expectations that you would meet in the ppt, discussions, Q&A. Provide them with your mail address in the presentation.

Most presentations fail because they aren’t clear about the objective, and they aren’t clear about what the audience or the client company wants.

RULE 1: State the objective of the Client or the audience of your presentation.

This makes the Client and the audience feel happy that you understand them and they will be assured that atleast you know their problem.

RULE 2: State the objective of this presentation

This will set the context and will help the Client understand what is to come.

RULE 3: State how this presentation helps the Client achieve his objective or solve his problem.

The Client will be very happy that you know the problem and you have a solution to it.

Believe me, if you get these three rules right, you’ve solved half the problem for your audience. The Client is happy that atleast you know what you’re going to do. Because most of the time during the presentation, the Client will be wondering “so what?”.

Provide them a summary of what is to come

Once you made your objective(s) clear to the audience, provide them with an executive summary of the presentation.  Why?

Imagine a typical presentation where the audience are wondering what will the presenter say, and there he goes with his slides full of information. The audience see the slide visuals, the amount of information, they listen to you, you blabber something, they forget your earlier point, and in the meanwhile you turn to the next slide. You’ve lost the audience.

Believe me, this happens in most presentations. It’s not easy to be as audience. With so much of information flow – the presenter seeks attention, the slides seek attention, the visuals seek attention, in the meanwhile the visual reminds you of something. As audience, it is very easy to be lost during a presentation. This is the most important thing a presenter should take care of.

So, for the benefit of the presenter, to make it easy for the audience to understand the context and make their understanding easy – to connect the dots, it is best to provide an executive summary.


–          This helps if a senior person has no time for your full presentation, and is interested to know a snapshot of your work.

–          This gives the audience the context and they can connect the dots easily in the presentation. This reduces your burden to make them understand.

–          If it is good news, they will be excited and will make them active in your presentation and they will secretly like you for the good news.


–          If it is a bad news, may be your audience will be critical of your work and conclusions.

I say that, even this will be for your advantage as if you can convince a critical audience that your bad news is the reality in the market, you’ve done it.  So, if you want to tell your Client this product will not work in the market, tell him in the summary. This will make him be critical of your work, but that is the challenge to persuade him that it is the reality in the market.

Build the story

Once you’re done with the objective(s) and the executive summary, start the movie. Every presentation should tell a story.

Facts:  McDonald’s reduced its prices. McDonald’s sales have tripled.

Story: McDonald’s sales have tripled because of its reduced prices.

People want stories, not facts.  It is when you give them facts, people feel – so what?

The body of your presentation should have Story Save Points (SSPs). It is the completion of a line of thought or idea and each of these Story Save Points should be re-emphasized until they are understood by the audience. These are stages where you want to save the understanding of the presentation in the mind of your audience. This should be the stage where you can have a summary slide of what happened until now, and re-emphasize the understanding before going forward.

Each of these Save Points should be connected to each other and are the anchor points to build the story. It may be of your choice to actually draw these Story Save Points from the conclusions and recommendations you want to make. This forms the skeleton of your presentation.

Skeleton of a Presentation:

  1. 1. OBJECTIVE(S)
    1. a. State the objective of the Client or the audience to attend the presentation.
    2. b. State the objective of this presentation
    3. c. State how this presentation solves the problem of the Client or helps the Client achieve his objective.
    4. d. What action(s) the Client will take based on this presentation?

Understand the audience expectations and possible questions. Often it will be a great start to clearly mention what questions you will answer and how will you solve their problem(s).



4. STORY SAVE POINT 1 <PAUSE and give them time to digest>

5. STORY SAVE POINT 2 and its linkage to SSP 1 <PAUSE and give them time to digest>

6. STORY SAVE POINT 3 and its linkage to SSP 1 and 2 … <PAUSE and give them time to digest>



Rules for making the presentation:

  1. Always ask for expectations from the presentation.  Inform them which expectations can be met from this presentation, and which cannot be met and how to deal with them. Tell them upfront the expectations that you would meet in the ppt, discussions, Q&A. Provide them with your mail address in the presentation.
  2. Give them the reasons why they should sit in this presentation, and the benefits of this presentation. This alerts the audience, because audience feel alert when you talk about them. When you talk about yourself, most of the times they switch-off.
  3. People remember best in 3s, so don’t give your audience more than 3 things to remember in a slide. Having said that, I know it is difficult for most people to prepare a slide with only three points. So, try not having more than six points in a slide if there are no sub points. If you have sub points, don’t have more than four points.
  4. For every slide, write a small note on why this slide is required and how it meets the objective or the story save point.
  5. Don’t give two stories in one slide. This will confuse your audience, and it becomes more difficult for you to let them understand.
  6. Use the relevant pictures, videos, and quotes wherever possible. People remember visuals a lot. The presentations I remember the most are those with great visuals.
  7. Ask them some question, and whatever the answer (unless it is completely orthogonal) tell that it is a correct answer and add your answer to it. This is a good strategy to make them listen to you.
  8. Make it large and legible. Try to tell a story with pictures and videos.
  9. Don’t read off the slide. It easily puts-off the audience. The only solution to this is preparation, there is no alternative.

10.  Maintain eye contact with one person at a time. As you talk to the person, finish a thought and then move onto a next person. Start with the easiest person or your friend in the audience. Make the eye-contact with the other end and move in a semi-circular motion shifting the eye-contact to the other end.

11.  Provide your contact information in the presentation.

12.  Maintain a good intentional pause between ideas and re-emphasize the idea before transitioning the audience into the next idea. This helps them better understand where you’re coming from and where you’re going.

All the ideas in this blog are my original thoughts and come from my personal experience. Any feedback to improve them is most welcome.  Finally signing off, I would say – help your audience understand your presentation.

Thank you.



We are what we repeatedly do

There is something wonderfully empowering about this. It suggests we have remarkable capacity to influence our own outcomes. But that’s also daunting. One of the central findings is that practice is not only the most important ingredient in achieving excellence, but also the most difficult and the least intrinsically enjoyable.

If you want to be really good at something, it’s going to involve relentlessly pushing past your comfort zone, along with frustration, struggle, setbacks and failures. That’s true as long as you want to continue to improve, or even maintain a high level of excellence. The reward is that being really good at something you’ve earned through your own hard work can be immensely satisfying.

Here, then, are the six keys to achieving excellence we’ve found are most effective for our clients:

  1. Pursue what you love. Passion is an incredible motivator. It fuels focus, resilience, and perseverance.
  2. Do the hardest work first. We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers, Ericsson and others have found, delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice in the mornings, before they do anything else. That’s when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.
  3. Practice intensely, without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break. Ninety minutes appears to be the maximum amount of time that we can bring the highest level of focus to any given activity. The evidence is equally strong that great performers practice no more than 4 ½ hours a day.
  4. Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses. The simpler and more precise the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments. Too much feedback, too continuously, however, can create cognitive overload, increase anxiety, and interfere with learning.
  5. Take regular renewal breaks. Relaxing after intense effort not only provides an opportunity to rejuvenate, but also to metabolize and embed learning. It’s also during rest that the right hemisphere becomes more dominant, which can lead to creative breakthroughs.
  6. Ritualize practice. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. As the researcher Roy Baumeisterhas found, none of us have very much of it. The best way to insure you’ll take on difficult tasks is to ritualize them — build specific, inviolable times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to squander energy thinking about them.


HBS Case Studies to read

Some of the case studies which are a must-read for every marketer:

1. Marketing Myopia

There is a reason for this being the first in this list. This is a revolutionary
article on Marketing written by Theodore Levitt. This article made him world-famous and the father of modern marketing. This is one of my favourite articles and is easily one of the greatest contributions to Marketing.

2. Marketing Simulation: Managing segments and customers

This is a simulation program from Harvard Business School, where the student assumes the positions of CEO and CMO of a medical motor manufacturer and are tasked with executing successful B2B marketing strategies from period to period. This is one program that teaches you the whole framework of Marketing Strategy.

3. Marketing Analysis Toolkit: Market Size and Market Share Analysis

Market shares, market sizes, growth rates are the breath of every marketer. Every marketer should understand the basics of market and how these are calculated. Marketers frequently need to estimate the projected sizes of the markets and market shares. This case covers all you need to know about the market analysis and projections for both existing products and new products.

4. Giant Consumer Products: The Sales Promotion Resource Allocation Decision

This case provides students with an opportunity to become familiar with some major strategic issues that firms face when formulating and implementing a sales promotion, including: cannibalization, branding, pricing strategies.

5. Cunard Line Ltd.: Managing Integrated Marketing Communications

Cunard, the world’s oldest luxury line company, is confronted with several key issues involving its marketing and marketing communications strategy. One concerns the balance between image/positioning, and the competition planning. This case explains all the problems related to positioning, and how to solve the communications problems with an integrated communications strategy. This is a very important case for every marketer.

6. Creating a Marketing Plan: An Overview

This is well explained in the book Marketer’s Essentials, a book by HBS. But it is a delight to go through this book and the way all the concepts of marketing are integrated to develop marketing strategies. Also definite templates for Marketing Plan, and Customer Value are provided.

Also, one can refer to

Also, refer to the references of papers in Marketing Management text book given for each chapter. This is a very comprehensive collection of all papers in Marketing.