Pitching Nuclear Waste Disposal

Keep it simple and focus on how people benefit.

Avoid complex details when talking to nonspecialists.

A detailed context works best after an emotive intro.

Recently I was part of a great conversation with three other business owners - we were sat having a post-dinner drink at the China Accelerator mentor dinner after GMIC 2017.

One of the guys was introducing his company and started telling us what he does, and we proceeded to discuss how he could improve his opening pitch.

This story is particularly interesting because his company works in nuclear waste disposal which is an insanely complex field and I think if it's possible to simplify and clearly pitch nuclear power than its possible to pitch any business which is why I believe that this is an interesting post to share.

But back to the beginning of his pitch.

Pitching Nuclera Dsiposal.jpg

As he started pitching his company, he went down the same path as many people do, and I used to. He began telling us what he did and how it worked which if you are not a scientist soon becomes way too much information and stops making sense.

I think people start going deep on what they do as they feel the audience needs a full context and background to understand how and why it matters which is right...but not as a way to start the conversation.

His structure was something like this:

  1. How he was qualified
  2. What his company and technology does
  3. How the science works
  4. Where they do it
  5. A final claim

I understood most of what was said, but some of the science flew right over my head - the thing that stuck out was his last sentence - "We call it closing the loop on the dangers of nuclear waste - our process and technology make it 100% safe."

"Closing the loop" That was it for me, and what concerns most nonscientists, how is nuclear waste managed and made safe?

As with all pitches, I hear I'm always looking for the why.

Why do we relate to the solution, how does it impact us? How do we understand it? How do we connect with it?

Nine times out of ten it is the last thing people say yet it is the best way to start.

I’m often recommending people reverse their pitch and start at the end - start with the overarching conclusion and work backward.

Our fellow dinner had focused too much on what nuclear waste is, and the technical details of how to make it safe which to ley-people make little sense. Non-nuclear physicists mostly only know the scary headlines of leaks, spills, and contamination the highly dangerous aspects, the glowing green ooze from movies. That's why we want nuclear waste to be managed and disposed of safely that's why we want the loop to close.

As we discussed his pitch, I suggested that ‘why' we need a company like his is to make nuclear waste safe. Do we want to know how that works?  Not really it's like not knowing how 4G and smartphones works don't stop us buying them. We want to know how it works for us - makes our life better and safer.

So I suggested the next time he is pitching his company he could start by simply saying - "We make nuclear waste safe."

Closing the loop.jpg


Using this as a starting point to talk a little science and depending on his audience go deep or stay shallow. This way he can be confident that everyone will know why he does what he does, a little of how it works and know that it helps us all.

So the main conclusion was:

Start with a focus on how the audience benefits.

Avoid too many details and know that there is always time for more information later but not as how to introduce a company or service.

Follow up with the details after an emotive intro, why, how and then what.

We all left the after dinner drinks satisfied with our collective discussion about how to directly pitch the benefits of his company and hopefully engage more investors and customers in the future.

Thank you for reading this far and please leave a comment below with any presentation related questions.

My Dream Project

I focus on presentation training as this is the best way to teach you the essential skills to being independently successful in your pitches and meetings.

Another part of what I do is to create presentations for people - this is an entirely different process and also very rewarding as I consult on the structure, message and ways to visualize what you are promoting and so help you generate value.

I have made presentations for leaders at Daimler, VW, Dulwich International College and Hollywood film producers, all people who were at the early stages of pitching clear messages and building great projects.

So all this to say if I could design a presentation for anyone it would be for Elon Musk, with former President Barack Obama and businessman extraordinaire Richard Branson close behind.

I admit I'm not an expert on Elon Musk - I've listened to a podcast interview, read a chapter profile and watched a YouTube Bloomberg documentary but already I think his vision for how and why we do things is fantastic.  I think his achievements are massively awe-inspiring especially seeing as Tesla has recently surpassed GM as Americas most valuable car company.


So if I were to design a presentation for Elon Musk, I would start off by asking him these three questions.

Three discovery questions
#1 Who is his audience?
#2 Why is he engaging them?
#3 What is his goal?

These kick-off questions help me establish the big picture and define all the things we need to discover to make an engaging presentation.

As I listen to his answers to these three discovery questions, I would be making sketch notes on my iPad, plus recording the sessions audio on my iPhone.

I would then ask which are the emotions we need to convey. This question helps us figure out which motivational triggers to highlight and visualize.

I would ask what the most important point of his message for the audience is - what is the point that sparks all the potential, needs and risk?

I would then finish up with asking what is the audience's worldview, what are their priorities, do they think with their head or their heart? Are they senior academics and legislators or are they, potential investors or partners?

See themselves in the solution
With all these discovery questions we are thinking about what makes the audience tick - what is the insight that hooks them in, how can we relate to them quickly and how do they see themselves in the solution?

Draft #1
With all Elon’s insights about audience triggers combined with the desired emotions and a clear goal for the presentation, I can then write a story outline, start a visual mood board on Pinterest and sketch out some initial three beat mountains and early ideas.

I would then set up a check-in meeting where I would pitch Elon the first draft presentation and support this meeting with multiple visual formats:

  1. A bullet point script
  2. Some three beat mountain structure options
  3. A visual mood board of references
  4. A slide wireframe as a contact sheet
  5. And an overview of the goals

Moving forward
This way in the first follow-up, after discovering the projects needs I can pitch a clear draft #1 and have the organized material ready to advance the conversation.

Clear structure
Working in this way, there is intentionally lots of room for Elon to see his idea structured in a clear visual way and understand how it is achieving his goals. I would maybe remind him that the imagery is still to be developed, but now it's crucial we are only looking at the content in the wireframe - we know pictures are needed and now we are structurally positioning them as the story develops.

Draft #2
After gathering all the inputs, questions and suggestions discussed I would then track the comments into an action list and then develop draft #2 of the presentation where we would design the slides with a standout look and feel. I would propose a range of design samples and options - as well as developing the presentation script in draft #2.

Draft #3
After confirming the draft #2 development the final phase would be to approve and lock in the slide design, each image and visual would have a selection of options per slide, so Elon is editing down and not having to come up with suggestions. As the final deck comes together and we fine tune the story beats and transitions slide by slide, I would need about an hour with Elon as we rehearse and walk through the slides making sure he has a super clear mental map of the material so he can present naturally.

Now along with a Word Doc version of the script, presenter notes, contact sheet and final PPT with a PDF Elon would be ready to go and nail his presentation.

The great thing about this process is there is a super clear roadmap in the 8 Steps to Showtime and Elon wouldn’t have to spend hours in meetings, it all starts with 20-30 minutes focused time at the discovery stage followed by scheduled 5-10 minute check-ins via Wechat and a final hour-long walk through and handover.

Efficient use of Elon's time
Elon would benefit by having a well-structured presentation which he is clear on because he was engaged in a three-step process which didn’t cost much time and created great results.

Reuse resources
He can reuse this presentation in the future and independently fine-tune it to the audience in front of him on a case by case basis as he knows how the structure clicks together.

Reduce risk
He can also share this presentation with senior team members who can now simultaneously start to share the same vision and idea he has consistently with no risk and so everyone stays on target.

MoI_Elon Musk.014.jpeg

Also, the final master document can be tweaked and then re-exported as a new presentation, expertly tuned to the audience in front of Elon and Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX.

Dream project
This would be a great project to work on as I think Elon’s vision for the world are the ones we need right now and I would like to help amplify his vision.

MoI_Elon Musk.015.jpeg

Having an excellent well structured, visual and shareable presentation is a great tool to have in any business which is doing inspiring things.

Thank you for your time - I appreciate you reading this far and if you have any questions about presentations, please leave a comment or email me.

How long is a good presentation?


Every time I host an event I set up a Wechat group as a way to share the content from the talk and also stay connected with the audience and answer questions.

In China Wechat is an insanely powerful tool as it is never more than arm's reach away and if you do the battery test on the iPhone, it's always in the top three apps that people spend their battery life and attention using, so it's always good to be where the action is.


Recently Kevin in one of my presentation focused groups asked me "how long should a presentation be?" Thanks, Kevin this is a good question, it doesn’t have one simple answer but let me share the structure and approach I use.



As with all things presentation related it all comes down to your audience your goals and why you are engaging people with your ideas.

There isn’t a single answer, but there are some structures and frameworks you can apply, to decide how long a presentation should be, always ask yourself:

  1. Who am I engaging?
  2. What is the goal?
  3. Why am I sharing my insights?
  4. How much time do we have?


How much time do we have?

Time is the one asset we all have the same amount of each day, and it all comes down to what we do with it that counts. Knowing how long you have with the audience allows you to structure the content in the most suitable way to make sure your audience appreciates their time with you.

As a rule of thumb, I use the following six structures A - F as a framework to engage with people.

A) 7 seconds

B) 10-40 seconds

C) 1-2 minutes

D) 3-8 minutes

E) 10-25 minutes

F) 25-50 minutes


These six structures range from super quick pitch introductions at networking to longer format presentations at conferences and events.


Let me break each one down

A) 7 seconds at a networking event is a great duration to say hello and introduce yourself sharing why you do what you do which then leads to a conversation.


B) 10-40 seconds is good for a short elevator pitch which avoids too many details but gives people enough information to have a clear understanding and retain something memorable from your exchange.


C) 1-2 minutes for an introduction to a project, product or service where you can highlight who you help, why that matters and some wow reveal that is memorable for the audience in front of you.


D) 3-8 minutes to share a topic and one short story which goes into more detail and starts to establish your expert status and insights but does not overload people with correct but non-essential details and facts.


E) 10-25 minutes for sharing up to three different stories which clearly define a deep understanding of an industry or issue and provides context and understanding along with well-structured data.


F) 25-50 minutes for captivating and entertaining an audience and informing them with your unique skills and establishing expert status, in-depth knowledge, key insights and background information which is relevant.



Any more than 50 minutes and people's energy levels for effectively staying focused starts to drain and your message and presentation starts to deliver diminishing returns, so the best thing to do is keep a presentation within 50 minutes or schedule in short 5 minute breaks to give everyone time to stretch and refresh.

These timeframes are of course just a guide and framework as it always comes down to addressing the audience in front of you, knowing your goals and structuring the best content to achieve these goals.


So thanks to Kevin in the Wechat group for asking the question and I hope this framework helps you structure your presentation, be more memorable and efficient as you present.

Thank you for reading this far, I appreciate your time, if you have any questions, please ask below in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.