We’ve all sat through those presentations at IAC that induce slumber before slide 2. The space industry is famous for its uninspiring decks, which is a real shame because this un-inspiration is in such stark contrast against the excitement of what space companies are actually working on.
At Cosma Schema, serving clients isn’t our only job. We’re also on a mission to improve all types of brand communication in the space sector, client or not. So, we’ve put together a few tips that will hopefully allow New Space leaders to keep their audiences hooked (or that will at least keep each other awake at future conferences or pitches).
1. The tech won’t sell itself.
In a recent discussion we had with the CEO of a prominent space investment fund, they shared how disappointed they were to see so many founders downplaying the importance of their pitch and presentation, claiming that “The tech will sell itself.” No matter how monumental your new thermal coating technology is, if you can’t tell the right, captivating story about it, it won’t matter. Investors and customers are investing in you, your spirit, and your communication abilities as a business leader as much as they’re investing in the tech. They want to trust you, and they won’t just trust you because space is cool.
2. Prepare to get grilled.
Before building your deck, take a moment to write down all the possible questions that your audience could possibly ask you. Seriously, write them down. Be the investor. Be the customer. Don’t just be a space engineer. And if you can’t get out of that mindset, ask someone who is closer to your target to weigh in. In thinking through the answers to those questions, list out tangible, real-world examples, numbers (even if they’re projections) that you could provide as answers in your presentation.
3. Don’t start with designing slides.
Before opening up a new presentation template, write down the one singular goal of your presentation (eg: Secure funding. Get an LOI. etc.). Then, under that, write out your table of contents: the broad sections of your presentation that will support the achievement of that singular goal. Seems simple, but most people dive in without completing this step first, and it shows. We’ve all sat through that presentation where the speaker spent way too much time explaining the different iterations of the motor testing campaign and then rushed through the rest. Don’t be that person.
4. It’s all about them.
People want to hear stories, stories that matter to them. They want to immediately understand what impact your space robotic arm is going to have on their everyday life, not just how your technology works. How will your Earth imaging software help them increase their bottom line? Or help them offer their services 3x as fast to customers? Making your audience feel understood by telling them a clear, relevant, human story is your absolute priority. No matter how badly you want to show the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve devoted to the stochastic trajectory optimization of your spacecraft, it may not help land your seed round. Be discerning. You can always have a technical appendix.
5. It’s all about you.
Like it or not, you want your audience looking at your passionate face more than your PowerPoint. The point of your presentation should always be you and what you’re saying, with the deck as a visual complement to support your story or quickly show concepts that aren’t easily expressed with words. A way to guarantee this is to keep slides extremely minimal and focused on one message per slide. If there are 15 graphs describing the dependency of the power required from 5 different parameters on one slide, your audience will not be looking at you, they’ll be trying to figure out what the hell that damn graph means.
6. Consistency is the key to looking polished.
Always use the same style bullet points if any, fonts in the same 1-2 sizes and 2-3 colors and 2-3 styles of slide. Make sure all images have the same treatment (eg: all black and white, or all full-bleed), and that charts and graphs all share the same design and color scheme. Remember that your competitors are going to use the same market research, data and information about the number of micro satellites that will be launched, so make sure you visualize that data in your own unique way that fits seamlessly with your deck’s design and supports your presentation’s story.
7. You don’t need to have your company logo on every page.
It’s distracting and not adding useful information. If your audience needs to be reminded on every slide who you are, you’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands.
8. Generic stock photos make your company look generic.
Interesting, carefully selected, uniquely cropped or colored photos and imagery will, on the other hand a) make it look like you actually spent time on your deck and b) will reflect well on your commitment to excellence and doing things differently as a company overall. How many times have you seen the same images of the Earth from space? Or the same computer generated image of satellites swooping around the planet with different ground stations lighting up? While this may be the most literal representation of your work, any benefit from being so accurate is overshadowed by the drawback of appearing completely unoriginal and unimaginative.
You’d never send your tech to space without performing some kind of testing, so why should it be different for your presentations? Find people that are already in or very close to your intended audience, present to them and ask for feedback. Who wants to practice a presentation over and over again? No one. But you’ve got to. Getting expert feedback from many different sources is the only way to truly know if people are picking up what you’re laying down.