Three-to-Five Points is More than Enough

Home » Presentations and Communication » Three-to-Five Points is More than Enough

When you’re pitching an audience to get them to purchase a product or service or to accept a new idea that you’re introducing, presenters are often driven by two competing forces – and you need to pick the right one.

The first, is the desire to “show how smart you are” and provide the audience with all the information at your disposal. The belief is that winning the deal depends on the cumulative impact of all the facts. You know this force is dominant when you choose to do a data-dump which may overload the customer. 

The second, is the desire to be “audience-driven”: meet the audience at the point where they can emotionally make a decision because they are comfortable with their control of the data.

Powerful presenters know that you need to cut down the number of issues to include so it’s manageable for the audience to handle. We usually advocate “5 +/-2, with -2 (total of 3) being ideal”.

Recently, a company seeking to raise funds for a new technology venture kept adding bullets/reasons for why it was a good idea. The initial 5 grew to 9 in the second draft. When asked how important they were, the presenter admitted most were not important, but he wanted to impress the investors as to its potential value. At that point we discussed the second reason why “less is more” the investor would have to present the information to a committee to get their buy-in and there was no way he could easily relate all nine! After practicing his pitch skills, he realized he focused on the top 3, so putting all 9 on the slide would be distractive.  More is the enemy of impact.

Recently, I shared points from Mark Walton’s Generating Buy-In, to help staff present material more effectively. He demonstrates a simple format for any presentation:

  • Start by Identifying the Buy-in objective
  • State the Strategic Storyline (e.g., sell products at the low, but profitable prices)
  • Present three targeted components of that strategy with persuasive supporting evidence.
  • End with a Call-to-Action.

For instance Walmart’s three strategic components are:

  1. Buy at the lowest possible cost (e.g., volume, negotiation, etc.)
  2. Sell at a profitable price that encourages buyers to buy 
  3. Keep the price fair enough so customers want to buy-again and recommend it to friends, thus creating a Flywheel effect: increasing volume over time enables lower purchase costs and selling at lower, profitable prices.

What are your thoughts on this topic? What’s been your experience both as a presenter and the “audience”?