How To Think About A Presentation – Psychologically

October 23, 2023


Last article we talked about the importance of first impressions and what levers you have to make an excellent first impression.

In this article we’ll build upon this, to think about how to keep your audience’s attention through and strategically structure your presentations. By the end of this article you should be set with a fresh mindset for producing all of your future presentations.

Human Nature, Limited Attention

Let’s say you do capture the initial attention of your target audience:

Your email is opened or your meeting is scheduled.

Their eyes are still open after your cover slide, both excited about your opportunity and intrigued by your marketing positioning.

Needless to say, the game is hardly over at that point.

What did you just win by succeeding with your success intro or cover?

A shot.

Your new goal and focus: to keep your audience increasingly excited through your presentation.

30 Second Goals

Given that you need to keep your audience’s attention, your new goal:

  1. Feed them something exciting every 30 seconds and
  2. Ensure that it’s increasingly exciting (meaning you’re planning your presentation cadence and large crescendo)

How do you do this?

This is where the art and differentiation come in.

Hitting all of the standard points in a presentation, including opportunity, market size, competition, team, success metrics, unit economics, financials/projections, cadence, is necessary but not sufficient. Where the art comes in is to have a very intimate sense of your business’s differentiators.

Does your business have unique Intellectual Property (IP) that will preempt competition from entering the space?

Did you have an unusually strong last few quarters showing exponential growth?

Do you have a particularly unique data-driven insight(s) that are the key to your opportunity?

Are your skill sets the optimal skill sets to deliver on the opportunity?

Must the time be right now for this opportunity because all conditions are perfect?

The point is: it’s crucial for you to know (and arguably rank) the potency of your opportunity’s value proposition so that there’s continued excitement and engagement throughout the presentation.

The Balance: Linear vs Strategic

It is worth nothing there is one important additional element to balance when deciding on your presentation’s storyline. While of course you want to be strategic in keeping your audience’s attention, you also want to ensure that the presentation is linear and logical.

Said differently, if you arbitrarily jumped around from team to financials to opportunity size to projections to competitions; it would likely be incredibly difficult for your audience to follow the logic of your business and the opportunity. Therefore, there is a bit of push and pull here to ensure you’re meeting these two primary dimensions.

Beware Distractors, Maintain Flexibility

Even if you have struck the perfect balance between logic and excitement, there is certainly at least one major lurking variable standing in your way as well: distraction. And this is something you must also mentally plan for as well if you’re presenting live. Said differently, if you enter your presentation with just a perfect seven-minute script, very clear on how your conversation will go, then you likely haven’t planned appropriately.

Every live presentation will of course reach interjections. The common response to interjections is frustration, especially if you’ve taken time to carefully prepare your pitch. However, there is good news (and a benefit) to these interjections. The good news is someone interjecting shows that they care enough to interject. Equally, you need your audience to be able to follow along through the presentation so they can understand the logic and get to your big crescendo. And bonus benefit: if you present your opportunity enough while road-showing, you’ll also start to recognize patterns of questions, enabling you to enhance your presentation to make it even clearer for future viewers.


Presenting an opportunity is a game of constant, increasing wins. Not only do you have to captivate your audience up front, but you need to maintain their attention, leading to the inevitable logical place of the excitement and opportunity that you’re providing. If you’re mindful about upward presentation trajectory of excitement and 30 second increments, you’ll give your audience something they’ll engage with through, hopefully leaving them wanting more at presentation-end.

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