Two steps to become pitch perfect

The American Film Institute lists Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as one of the greatest films of the past 100 years. It was a notable movie for many reasons, one of which being the first time Disney applied its pioneering storyboard process to movie-making. Pre-visualizing a sequence by mapping individual scenes on separate pieces of paper and displaying it on a board has since become so integral to storytelling that it’s considered a foundational step for any narrative process.

And this is why you need to adopt it, too.

There are two key reasons to get good at storyboarding:

  1. It keeps the story moving forward, leading to a key takeaway.
  2. Digging deep into the story flow makes it more malleable; meaning if a meeting gets cut short you know what your key points are and can ensure they get air time.

Let’s first look at building your story.

Take a literal step back to think critically about its flow and structure.

  • Print all the pages, lay them on a table and walk through the flow. It’s low-tech but works for large groups. Plus you can easily make notes and shuffle around slides. Alternatively, use the Slide Sorter view on PowerPoint, a projector is needed for large groups.

  • Make sure each slide has a clear purpose and leads to the next, progressing to support your key points. Constantly ask yourself, “Is the story building?” Like all good stories, there can be surprises, but too many surprises feels confused and unplanned.

  • Remove anything that doesn’t support your takeaway message. In many situations, the decision maker is late, called away, or multi-tasking with email. Scan through the presentation—is there enough information for a decision to be made?

  • Flip from page to page and think about how each delivers you to the next. How does it relate to its adjacent pages? Try removing a slide completely, does the story still flow? If yes, then you may not need it.

Examine the layout of each page. Is it easy to read and understand? Is everything grammatically correct and clear?

By now you’ve created the perfect pitchbook. But, you get to the meeting and there is a client fire drill. Your 60 minutes is reduced to 15. Crap.

It doesn’t mean you’re finished, but it does mean you have to adjust on the fly. Given this, I always practice indexing my presentation. Read Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds for how to do this. At a high-level, it’s an elevator pitch for each of the following parts:

  • Pitchbook
  • Section
  • Page
  • Chart/Table/Exhibit

Imagine you only have 15 seconds to speak on each—what would you say? By practicing this, your presentation becomes elastic enough to stretch from 15 seconds to 60 minutes.

This is even more critical if the time management of the meeting is out of your hands. A chatty co-presenter can swiftly cut your ten minutes down to five, and you need to be able to adapt.

With my team, we conduct dry runs for not only the full allotted time but we also cut that by 10%, 25%, and 50%. It may sound extreme, but after a ten-minute delayed start, ten minutes of introductions, and ten minutes of questions a 50% time cut can fast become a reality.

I’ll be sharing more on how to be pitch perfect. How are you practicing your pitchbooks? Let me know at