Recommended Reading for Business Presentations

This is a brief list of highly recommended reading to improve both your online and offline presentation skills.


Mathieu Carenzo
YouTube Channel


You Need to Rock the Boat

In order to stand out from the ordinary, you need to rock the boat. And not be afraid of doing so.

Imagine being stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean, waiting for rescue to arrive. Along with you are all the other passengers on the original ship that is now a mere decorative item for the ocean floor, and luckily everyone has survived. But you know that the rescue won’t arrive for another six hours and you realise your lifeboat is taking in water. At this point, it should be relatively easy to get people into action to stop the leak or at least start working towards emptying the water, right? With enough food and water on board, all you have to do is work diligently for the next several hours so that you step on the rescue boat with dry clothes. (And try not to rock the boat too much while you’re at that.) You don’t need much persuasion, you don’t have to deliver a compelling speech or show detailed charts to highlight the pros and cons of taking immediate action.

Several months after that ordeal in the ocean, you are back in your office, due to deliver a presentation to some key decision-makers. You’ll need their supportive decisions to get you closer to your goals. But do you think they would be easily convinced to take action?

When making a speech or delivering a presentation, I believe there is only one purpose: To convey your ideas to your listeners and get them to take an action. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. This action could be flashing their checkbooks to invest in your project, or adopting your recommendations for improving the workplace, or increasing your department’s marketing budget so that you will have more resources to meet your goals next quarter.

But this ‘action’ of the presentation or the speech could also mean just deciding to think differently, or seeing things from a different perspective. The action that you seek in your speech does not have to be a tangible, visible move from your listeners; a mere consideration of your new perspective is also an action that you could be seeking — in fact, a very important one.

But how do you do that? Have you noticed how, most of the time, just conveying information alone is not sufficient to get people to change their behaviours or adopt new points of view? Just ask anyone who has all the information about the unhealthy effects of smoking, who wants to quit, but can’t. We need more than just data to make us want to consider changing our perspective, see things differently, and possibly take action in a new direction. And under these circumstances, one of the worst ways of trying to get people to take action would probably be doing things ‘the usual way’.

I see and hear that repeated many times, especially in corporate communications where presentations are used: Take the previous deck, update the charts, replace the text and numbers with the new ones, hit save, and go present. Or, cram everything into a one-page executive summary with 9-pt text and expect that your audience will pay any semblance of attention to it. And the most prevalent counter-argument I receive when I advise people to make things differently is, that they want to stick to the usuals ways and they don’t want to ‘rock the boat’.

Quite naturally, the usual way of doing things will not result in any significance in the way people perceive you or your message. When they are already bombarded with all sorts of inputs and information from every corner of their busy lives, it will not allow you to stand out from the crowd and get your message across. Doing things the usual way will create usual results, which, 99% of the time will defeat the purpose of an in-person speech or presentation in the first place: If you’re not seeking to get people into action in new ways, just send an email with the updated slides and they will be appropriately informed.

But the purpose of a speech or a presentation goes way beyond that. So the next time you feel yourself inclined to stick to the usual ways, think about if they would serve your purpose well. They probably won’t. Instead, consider making a few changes to the ways you interact with the people listening to you. This could be anything from standing up to speak during a meeting where everyone else is fixated in their chairs, to slicing the executive summary slide into six more slides to delivering things one by one, in bite-size chunks. You do not have to reinvent the wheel and drastically change the way we communicate with each other, but any positive difference you’ll bring into the picture will help you get closer to your goals of being there and doing the speech in the first place. 

In order to stand out from the ordinary, you need to rock the boat. And no one in his or her right mind would criticise you for tweaking the ways you speak or present to them, given that the purpose of these changes is only to improve the quality of the communication they receive. 

Investor Presentation Mistake: Using Too Many Technical Words or Jargon

A very, very typical mistake that I notice when listening to investor pitches, is using too many technical or complicated words, which are known as jargon.

Another common mistake that I notice when listening to investor pitches, is using too many technical or complicated words, which are known as jargon. Nearly every field has its own distinctive words that people active in that field already know about. People usually use them to explain things better and perhaps even faster, but it only works with a specific audience that already knows what those words mean.

Jargons may help people within the same fields of activities communicate more effectively, but there may always be people in the audience who may not readily know them. When you use a lot of jargon, the risk of losing and getting these people disconnected from you becomes very probable. This is not a desired outcome if you are speaking to people who will or will not want to invest in you or your company. No, this is the direct opposite of the outcome you’re looking for.

As you begin with your business idea and spend months or even years in a certain field, it is only normal that you start getting accustomed to and comfortable with using technical terms specific to that field. You may even come to a point that you no longer remember what it was like not to know those technical terms. So you may assume that every living soul already knows about those words, but this could not be further from the truth.

That’s why, when the time comes to pitch your idea to people outside your specific field, you need to bring the language down to a common denominator that every single person in the room can understand. And trust me as a public speaker, that you or me as the presenters will not have the best judgment of what that common denominator would be. No, we need to reach out of our comfort zone and ask people who are not already knowledgable on our topic or our field of expertise.

Find a 5 year old kid and pitch your idea to him or her. Reach out to your elder relatives and see if your speech makes sense to them. Especially when speaking to potential investors, you will have a very short amount of time to make a positive impact. Therefore, simpler statements and easy to understand phrases will go along way in creating a common comprehension of your ideas. You can later discuss more details in much deeper levels during further talks with your potential investors after the initial pitch.

Investor Presentation Mistake: Pitch-Deck vs. Leave-Behind Document

A common mistake that I notice entrepreneurs make when pitching potential investors, is the confusion between a slide deck and a leave-behind document.

Another common mistake that I notice entrepreneurs make when pitching to me or other potential investors, is the confusion between a slide deck and a leave-behind document. They fail to harness the power of these two separate things.

A presentation that you use during your pitches should be a light, easy-to-digest, and simple visual aid. And that is exactly what it should do; Help you convey your message more clearly and in a more compelling manner. A presentation file is not a document that should contain loads of information. In fact, ideally, your pitch deck should be plain and simple enough not to make much sense without you in the room presenting it.

At this point you might ask; “But what if the potential investors ask for a document to inspect further?” Yes! And that is exactly what it should be; a leave-behind ‘document’.

In this separate document, you can include further information to back your ideas up, provide in-depth charts, graphics, data sets, and other relevant information. And this would be a document that potential investors could read, print, or even distribute among their business partners, all at their own pace. And since they would do it on their own time, they would not be split between trying to read the information and listen to you simultaneously.

A good leave-behind document is usually a PDF or PPSX file that takes the reader on a deeper journey about your business or the opportunity that you just shared with them in person. It should be relatively easy to grasp, yet comprehensive enough for the reader to get a good understanding of your message, especially without you being there.

An amazing, free resource to learn everything about such visual documents that are intended to be read and referenced instead of being projected, is Duarte’s SlideDocs. You can download a free, comprehensive copy of their publication on their website.

Investor Presentation Mistake: Trying to Educate Them During the Pitch

One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make when presenting to potential investors is trying to educate them.

One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make when presenting to potential investors is trying to educate them. By educating I mean including in the presentation too much information about the project, business, or products, and trying to convey all of it within a very short time, typically 4 to 5 minutes during a regular pitch.

I witness this all the time both as a presentation trainer, but more importantly as a startup investor myself. And when that happens, I ask the entrepreneurs why they wanted to include everything in the pitch. They usually tell me that they think the investors could make a better-informed decision to invest in the company if they had a total understanding of the product or service.

And this is where it becomes very critical to correctly identify the goal of the 4 to 5 minute investment pitch; it is not to have the potential investors to grasp everything about your company or project and flash their checkbooks at the end of your pitch to sign the deal. No, the goal of a short investment pitch is actually to get the potential investors to become interested enough in you, your project, or your company to just want to move forward to the next step with you. This could be another meeting with them with more partners or decision-makers present, a private meeting to discuss more details, or something else.

Think of your investor pitch like a first date. The goal of the first date is not to get the other person to decide to marry you by the end of the date right? No, if you did that, the chances are that the date would go horribly wrong, and the other person would probably think of you as weird and creepy (just remember what happened to Ted Mosby on his first date with Robin). No, the goal of the first date would be to generate enough interest — and a bit of curiosity of course — in the other person to want to move to the next step, Which is a second date. And then a third date, before getting into a longer-term relationship.

In the same sense, the goal of the investor pitch is to generate enough interest, and a bit of curiosity of course (and now you can see I am a huge fan of that). Enough interest so that the investors will want to move to the next step with you. And you do not do that by bombarding them with complicated data, a mountain of information, or complex charts. No, trust me at best they will disconnect from you, or in the worst case, they will wish that you were not talking to them in the first place. None of those are good outcomes for starting a long-term business relationship with them.

So in your next pitch, leave behind your complicated slides and never-ending, lengthy statements. Identify and convey the problem you’re bringing a solution to in very simple terms. Create an appetite to keep the conversation going by showing how your project or business presents an opportunity in your target market and why it would be in their interest to consider investing in you. I will be talking about how to do those in more detail in other videos. But for the moment, rather than trying to educate your investors, keep things simple, and make it easy to understand.