How to make a slide like a consultant
When people see slides from McKinsey and BCG, they see something that is compelling and unique, but don’t really understand all the work that goes into those slides. The companies have a healthy obsession with how things look, how things are structured and how they are presented.
They also don’t understand how much work is spent on telling a compelling “story.” The biggest mistake people make in the business world is mistaking showing a lot of information versus telling a compelling story. This is an easy mistake to make — especially if you are the one that did hours of analysis. It may seem important, but when it comes down to making a slide and a presentation, you end up deleting more information rather than adding. You really need to remember the following:
Data matters, but stories change hearts and minds
Some simple rules:
#1 — Format, format, format
Both McKinsey and BCG had style templates that were obsessively followed. Some key rules I like to follow:
- Make sure all text within your slide body is the same font size (harder than you would think)
- Do not go outside of the margins into the white space on the side
- All titles throughout the presentation should be 2 lines or less and stay the same font size
- Each slide should typically only make one strong point
#2 — Titles are the takeaway
The title of the slide should be the key insight or takeaway and the slide area should prove the point. The below slide is an oversimplification of this.
Even in consulting, I found that people struggled with simplifying a message to one key theme per slide. If something is going to be presented live, the simpler the better. In reality, you are often giving someone presentations that they will read in depth and more information may make sense.
#3 — Leveraging the Pyramid Principle
The pyramid principle is an approach popularize by Barbara Minto and essential to the structured problem solving approach I learned at McKinsey. Learning this approach has changed the way I look at any presentation since.
This slide gives a rough framework of this approach:
Taking our profitability example from above, you would say that increasing profitability is our “main goal.” Assuming the three hypothesis you developed are true, they may develop into the following three points as in the graph above.
- Company X can increase prices and can do so through tactics A,B,C
- Markets A and B have been unlocked by new entrants and Company X is poised to exploit
- Business Model X can help Company C exploit new pricing strategies and also support movement into new markets. These ultimately will help lead the company to increase in X% profitability
These three ideas not only are distinct but they also build on each other. Combined, they tell a story of what the company should do and how they should react. Each of these three “points” may be a separate section. Within each point, you would have several slides of analysis and information helping to prove the point that these stances are in fact true.
#4 — Have “MECE” Ideas for max persuasion
“MECE” means mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive — meaning all points listed cover the entire range of ideas while also being unique and differentiated from each other.
An extreme example would be this:
- Slide title: There are seven continents
- Slide content: The seven continents are North America, South America, Europe, Africa Asia, Antarctica, Australia
The list of continents provides seven distinct points that when taken together are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. The MECE principle is not perfect — it is more of an ideal to push your logic in the right direction. Use it to continually improve and refine your story.
Applying this to a profitability problem at the highest level would look like this:
Goal: Increase profitability
2nd level: Can increase revenue or decrease costs
3rd level: Can increase revenue by selling more or increasing prices
Each level is MECE. It is almost impossible to argue against any of this (unless you are willing to commit accounting fraud!).
#5. Getting Reps
Look for people around you that do this well and ask them for feedback. The more feedback, the more iterations and more presentations you make, the better you will become.
About the Author
Phani Marupaka, is a seasoned Marketing & Business Development Professional with experience in Startup Ecosystems, AI, NLP, ML, Chatbots and SaaS. He writes on topics covering ‘Technology’, Future, Chatbots and Startup Ecosystems. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.