When I was in graduate school I realized some scientists, engineers and technical professional have a hard time articulating ideas properly in presentations. Scientists can be some of the most brilliant minds on the planet. However, the successful STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) professional MUST know how to properly pitch ideas to receive funding.
I had a client tell me his value proposition was that his team is smarter than everyone else. Scientists and technology professionals are expected to be smart, but don’t make the audience feel inferior to the speaker. To effectively pitch an idea to a non-technical audience requires the presenter to make the information memorable and understandable if they want the company to be profitable. Here’s how to do it:
- Tell a Story – The stories our parents read to us were memorable because they had a beginning, middle and end. They had characters (people or animals). Don’t ramble on with facts, figures and statistics that are going bore everyone. Tell your project’s story. Share the exciting way the idea originated – with successes and failures.
- WIIFM – This is the “So what? of the presentation.” People want to know “What’s in it for me?” or WIIFM. Pitch ideas in a way that clearly explains to them why they came to listen to you. Is your idea going to make them more money, save them time or cure a disease (which will make them more money). Tell the audience early on so they don’t start working on their grocery list on their iPhones.
Make Your Presentations Memorable
- 10-20-30 Rule – Guy Kawasaki famously articulated the 10-20-30 rule for pitching presentations. There should be no more than 10 slides in the pitch deck. This should reduce the incidence of decks of 100 slides (or more). Presenters have 20 minutes to speak. There is no room for rambling, so make sure and practice. All fonts should be at least 30 points in size. Larger fonts, pictures and graphs help the audience see the information no matter where they are in the room.
- Visual Aids – Slides are meant to assist in the presentation. They should not be the presentation or a crutch to someone who did not prepare. Use graphs instead of tables to show trends. Use pictures instead of paragraphs to quickly communicate ideas. The audience came to listen to the speaker not read the presentation. Visual aids are just the supporting cast. And NEVER use clip art! It went out of style in 1993.
- Practice, Practice, Practice – If a scientist wants to pitch ideas that get funding, practice. Investing 15 minutes a day 2 weeks before the event will show in the presentation. This simple act reduces technology problems, nervousness and inefficiencies in the presentation. It also improves confidence, organization and audience engagement.
Scientists and technical professionals pitch ideas to get project funding and government grants. These complex and esoteric data may be confusing to many audiences and those who hold the purse strings. Implementing a few simple changes makes those presentations more memorable, understandable and profitable. See you on Shark Tank!
Scientifically Speaking, of course…