Now that I have your attention, let me explain. OK, maybe you do need to create a presentation to go with your business plan. You’re looking for investors or competing for venture prizes, perhaps.

Don’t do a business plan presentation.  Instead, do a presentation, start to finish, about your business. The plan is one thing, the slide show is another. Don’t confuse the two.

Don’t even think about copying words from your plan to your presentation. That’s ugly. Slideshows are a different medium.

Some say you should do the presentation first, then the plan.

The most you can take directly from your plan into your slide show will be some charts. Remember as you do that — and if you do that — you’re going to talk directly to your listeners about the conclusions they should draw from the chart.  Don’t tell them what the chart says.

  • The Highlights chart showing annual sales, gross margin, and net profit is good, but just show the chart, skip the bullet points.
  • You can use a graphic chart break-even analysis to showing how much you need to sell in a month to cover costs.
  • A good-looking pie chart can show your market segmentation.
  • Use bar charts to show sales by product or service.
  • Use a bar chart to show you cash flow projections illustrating the projected cash balance for 12 months.

If you’re doing a plan and a presentation, particularly for a start-up business, read and follow Guy Kawasaki’s recommendations in his 10/20/30 post on his blog. He’s even got a suggested topic list for your 10 slides. You’ll end up dropping most of the charts I recommended above, which is fine, his way is better.

The idea of bad powerpoint isn’t particularly new and isn’t particularly mine either. Like every good idea, it seems to have been something that came up at the same time from a lot of different people. Some of them were articulate writers, so we have their writings to point to.

My favorite is Guy Kawasaki’s chapter on PowerPoint in his book The Art of the Start. In his blog piece (the one I I recommended above) he recommends a post by Garr Reynolds on his blog Presentation Zen. There’s a recent post by Marc Orchant called Humanizing PowerPoint that is very good and cites several others worth readings. From there you can go to Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullets, and he’ll take you back to Seth Godin, who wrote the cornerstone piece on bad Powerpoint.

If you’re going to do a presentation related to your business plan, read this stuff. Do it right.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.