The best product managers treat the product as their baby: they’re incredibly committed to its success, taking ownership of its roadmap and all processes involved in bringing it to market.
They wear many different hats, regularly managing relationships and expectations between a variety of stakeholders – and product presentations inevitably play an important part in this.
Product presentations in 7 easy steps
Maybe you require internal approval from your management board to move forward with development following a pilot/prototyping. Or perhaps you need to brief your salespeople on the latest features and functionality.
You might even be creating a product presentation to show to distribution partners, retailers, media and analysts – or a pitch deck for the product’s next round of investor fundraising.
Whatever the requirements of your presentation are, use the below practical tips to communicate your product’s value effectively and achieve the desired outcomes.
Be clear on your objective
Before firing up PowerPoint or any other presentation software, you need to first figure out what the purpose of your presentation is. It could be to educate, persuade, train or sell. Decide on the result you’re trying to achieve and construct your presentation around that goal.
When you finish your presentation, you’ll want your audience to do something. So establish a clear call to action that encourages them to act. All of your presentation messaging should build to this point, so strip away any superfluous detail that doesn’t add value to your objective.
Audience priorities and interests will vary depending on who you’re talking to, and you should adjust your messaging tack accordingly.
A good idea to create a ‘persona’ for the audience you’ll be speaking to: identify who they are, what’s important to them and what challenges they face – then speak directly to their concerns and interests.
Once you’ve created a product presentation for one purpose, you’ll have a solid structure in place that you can adapt and adjust to meet the needs of different presenters and audiences as you move into new phases of your product roadmap.
Respect what they already know
Your audience will probably know a good amount about your industry already. They may even be familiar with your company and product, so it’s important that your presentation takes into account their pre-existing knowledge.
Don’t waste time rehashing historic detail – doing so will just send your audience to sleep. It’s fine to touch on what has come before, but be forward-looking in your approach: treat your product as something that will bring about change for the better.
Let stories lead
Stories are the most powerful way of communicating information in your presentation, and the meaningful structure they lend your content even helps your audience to remember what you said.
They help to engage your audience on an emotional and intellectual level – which is far more powerful than info-dumping lists of facts and figures on them. Even the most hard-nosed, data-driven audiences can’t resist a good story.
The very nature of the product presentation is a prime storytelling opportunity. You’re introducing something new, so you can craft a narrative of change. And there’s bound to be a compelling story or two in the development of your product.
Implement a narrative structure with a clear beginning, middle and end. This way you can clearly demonstrate the difference your product will make. Begin by talking about the current state of affairs, introduce conflict by talking about problems that people face, then end by introducing a brighter vision of the future with your product as the solution at the centre.
Examples of how your product is being used also provide powerful storytelling opportunities. You can take advantage of them to demonstrate how it’s a better alternative to the competition and prove that it works. Real-world case studies are a great way of bolstering your product’s credibility.
Position your product as the hero
Being so close to the product can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you know everything there is to know about it, but on the other, you can find yourself in something of a mental silo when it comes to articulating its value to a specific audience.
It’s easy to get lost in the descriptive detail, but that’s not much use to your audience: they need to know the why, not just the what. The trick is to focus on the benefits, not the features.
Your product should be solution to a persistent problem that’s a pain point for a significant number of people. It should be unique and differentiated from the competition. You should prove that it provides an easier, better way of doing things than the other options available.
Think about how Netflix describe their service: they don’t talk at length about the architecture of their cloud database and personalisation algorithms. Instead, put their customers at the centre of the message while focusing on the benefits of their service: you can watch the content you want at any time that suits you on any device, and get unique suggestions on what you might like.
Remember that the benefits will differ depending on who you’re speaking to.
Use clear, concise slides
How your presentation slides themselves look will play an important role in the success of your product presentation. People often make the mistake of trying to say too much, when really each slide should contain just one key message.
You want your audience to focus on you as a presenter, so it’s important to you don’t fill your slides with rambling text; instead they should be visual aids that enhance what you’re talking about.
Try to deliver each unit of information in the clearest and simplest way possible (no jargon!). Use economical text set against powerful, relevant images that match the quality of your product’s brand.
Maintain consistent use of colour throughout to reduce distractions and keep things uniform. Also employ subtle animations and transitions to explain processes and help your information flow along naturally.
Visualise your data
Quantitative information should form the backbone of any communication collateral that aims to persuade, presentations included. But the way you choose to visualise your data is equally important.
Numbers on their own are abstract and difficult to understand. They have little semantic meaning on their own, so you can forget about pasting Excel sheets onto your slides. However, our brains can process and extract visual meaning at an astounding rate, so using graphics to represent data just makes sense. Doing so lends data context and scale.
Go beyond pedestrian line and bar charts that everyone has seen before. Even just small design variations on established formats are enough to help make your data appear more interesting.
Recognise that you don’t have to cover all of the numbers in your presentation – just those that are most relevant to your message. You can pick out the most the most important data points and display them in a visually interesting way on their own slides. This allows you to talk around them at your own pace and reveal more as you progress.
For example, if you’re talking about profit projections, put the figure next to an icon of a stack of coins. Or if discussing North American sales figures, try putting the figure over a vector map of the continent.
Let your expertise shine through
As the product’s owner, you’ll know more about it than anyone else. Use the fact that you’re the authority on it to your advantage and take charge of the room right away.
Be open and receptive to feedback, and don’t feel the need to apologise for questions you don’t know the answer to. As product management and support expert Andrea Saez points out, “Your role as a product manager doesn’t require you to know everything. It’s as much your job to absorb new ideas as it is to provide answers, so consider this an advantage rather than a weakness.” You can read more of Andrea’s writing on product management for the ProPad blog here.
Remember that you don’t need to put on a persona when presenting your product. You’re already the expert so relax and try not to fall victim to presentation anxiety. Just focus on how excited you are to share your information with the audience and your conscious enthusiasm will shine through into your delivery.