The perfect ten minute presentation

In ten minutes, you can say a lot. What you say depends on

  • the purpose of the presentation and the need to meet the remit of the invitation; however, there is still time and scope to include the things you want to say
  • the audience – their knowledge of, and interest in, the subject; are they your target market or fellow networker?

In order to be interesting, the talk has to be original, rather than structured according to what a training course tells you. However, there are some basic elements which must be there.

Purpose and approach

As usual, if your purpose is to sell to the audience, it will be immediately detected and resented. Even people who have asked to be sold to shouldn’t be sold to (how do you know what to sell them?). Even a series of illustrations of how good you are, dressed up as case histories of actual clients, will be perceived as selling, if that is your intention. People subconsciously pick up other people’s intentions, even if communicated subconsciously. Just because you’re unaware of it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Referring back to the section on purpose and outcomes, a more useful purpose would be to give the audience an entertaining and informative talk such that the outcome is that they are more willing to talk you up with people they know.


The most important components of a ten minute presentation are stories. People need stories to allow them to empathise with people other than you – ie, people like themselves. Empathy is a feeling process and you want the audience to be in their feelings because people in their feelings are much more receptive.  People learn when they have an experience, and, for want of anything better, a good story is an experience.

Talk about yourself

A (small) bit about your background, yes. But crucially:

  • why you do what you do
  • what you get from it
  • what gives you a buzz about it.

Don’t forget a story (eg, how you came to work for/set up the company).

Talk about how your business helps its clients, not about the services it provides

Include a statement of how the business helps its clients, tailored to the needs of the audience (see the section ‘Talking about what your business does’). But make sure this statement, and the stories, are positioned so they are talking about how the business helps the client resolve its problem, not about what services the business provides.

The most important components of a ten minute presentation are stories.

People do not buy benefits. They buy solutions to their problems. I have a problem in that, if I attempt to do my tax return, it will be inaccurate and take a lot of time. Potential trouble with HMRC is on the cards. So I pay an accountant to do it. I’m not buying accountancy services, for the sake of having them, I’m buying the solution to my problem.

People are often recommended to say why their business is ‘unique’. I’m not sure this is really necessary but, if you want to say it, it would be good to say that, at least, the business is unusual in that it understands the point about businesses solving problems, not selling benefits.

Here stories are easy – and essential. Talk about clients. If you don’t have any, talk about other people’s clients (“I know a coach who had a client who…”). Show how real clients’ issues were resolved by your business’s intervention (preserve anonymity, of course).


The simplest structure is

  • Introduction
  • Content
  • Conclusion.

The Introduction should have something surprising, thought-provoking, funny, or otherwise attention grabbing. Preferably this should be relevant to the rest of the presentation.

The Content can be divided into a number of sections – different aspects of the business, or just different stories

Conclusion. You can try for a ‘call to action’ if you think the audience will do something, but I would avoid it unless you’re confident they will. Better to simply recapitulate – briefly – the main points you’ve made in the Content.

Related material:
>  Talking about your business
>  Useful elevator pitches

This is an edited extract from Network betterby Jeremy Marchant
© 2013 Jeremy Marchant Limited . images:  Free images

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