25 Nov 2015

Sell Your Novel Idea - The Steve Jobs Way

Yesterday I was watching the starting 15-20 minutes of the iPad and iPhone launch. Both were revolutionary products at the time of their launch. But how was it launched by Steve?How will you sell a new idea or concept to people? We will learn from how Steve started and structured his talk.

1. Build expectation
Steve jobs built audience expectation right at the start. He uses words like 'revolutionary technology' and raises their hope. If you are selling a new concept or idea, you might want to start with raising the hopes of the audience. Choose your words carefully and tell the audience about awesome this thing is. The audience must be told that you are really onto something new and interesting. If you will not tell, who will?

2. Share your excitement with the audience
Steve Jobs had a child-like excitement about his products. Listen to this from his talks. He says, "It is so wonderful" when he talks about 50 million visitors to 284 Apple stores. "I don't even believe that" after he shared last quarter revenues of $15.6 billion. "It is unbelievably great" says Steve about the iPad. Be positive and talk good about your idea / product. You need to let your inner child come out and talk openly and honestly.

3. Set the context
Steve does not start by showing you the product - iPad or iPhone. When you are selling something novel, it needs a context. What is happening around us? What are the problems? What is the novel approach?

For iPad, he talks about a need for a third device between a phone and a laptop. But if such a device is launched, it has to do many things well. Gaming, Emails, Browsing, Multimedia, etc. Then he talks about Notebooks and how they are just a mini-laptop. Finally he launches the iPad.

The same approach was taken for iPhone. What kind of smartphones exist today. They are hard to use and not very smart. We want to launch something 'very very smart' and very easy to use. Steve has sold us the very need why a new product is required. Only then, does he tell us he is launching a new phone; the iPhone. Tell people why they need your new idea. Only then can you really sell the idea.

19 Nov 2015

Simplifying complex Presentations: 6 Tips for engineers

You are a engineer or a scientist or you work in R&D. You work on cutting edge technology and you are talking to 'managers' (who are not engineers) who do not understand all this. This is a communication challenge and you need to simplify your talk for it to make any sense to the managers.

Melissa Marshall in her 4 minute TED talk addresses this issue head on and offers 6 tips. I have added my thoughts as well.

1. On every slide, ask yourself "So What?" This is what the audience is thinking as well. How does it relate to me? Why does it matter to me? How is this relevant and useful to me?

2. Remove all jargon from your talk. Jargon is only known to people in your domain. And jargon will not make you look any smarter.

3. Simplify the talk. Bring down complex concepts to a level which your audience can understand. You cannot make the audience smarter in 15 minutes. But you can definitely make your content more understandable to them.

4. Use stories, analogies and examples. This is an extension of point 3. How do you make the talk simpler? You give an example. You narrate an anecdote or a story of how a consumer used a product and what happened. You use analogies and metaphors. Analogies are the most powerful tool when explaining new and complex concepts.

5. Avoid bullet points at all cost. A slide which has 6 bullets is a sure shot route to death by PowerPoint. You have lost your audience as soon as the slide is up.

6. Don't be boring. Use visuals. Everyone knows they need to use visuals. So we will take this to the next level. Use visuals which are relevant and evoke an emotional response. Use visuals which explain what you are talking about. Use visuals which cover the entire screen, can be seen and can make an impact. Use visuals which look good to the eyes (not pixellated photos, but high resolution stuff). Read more about using images here.

Watch this amazing talk right now!

14 Nov 2015

You cannot Present the Slides that you have Emailed

You have received an appointment to present to a potential customer or an investor. The prospect asks you to email the deck (slides) beforehand so that they can go through it. What will you do?

Do not email the deck that you are supposed to present.

When you email the deck - the slides need to stand on their own. You will not be there to speak along with the slides. Hence, this deck will have more words.

When you present the deck in person - the slides will support your talk. Here you should have more and more visuals, photos and less and less of text. Just a few words per slide will do. One slide can simply have one chart and the story will be communicated orally. Declutter the slides to increase the impact on your audience. If you present the slides which have everything written already, what real value will you add?

Change your slides depending on the way it is going to be presented. Will the slides be read by the audience or will you be presenting it in person?

8 Nov 2015

Easiest way to get more people to understand your report, email or presentation

The two biggest challenges facing every communicator are - Comprehension and Credibility. Comprehension is all about whether your audience understands you. Credibility is about belief. Do they believe you?

Today I want to talk about increasing comprehension. There is one tool which can help you improve the comprehension of your written text (and by extension, the spoken word too).

Flesch–Kincaid Readability Score

You have written your email or content on your slides. Before you press send, why not check what your readability score is? The higher the score, the more readable (and comprehensible) your content is. Scores usually range between 0 and 100.

Click here to visit the site. Copy paste your content and you get the readability score.

Let us see how it works. I will copy paste parts of Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk. His TED talk is the most watched TED talk ever. Here is a short story from his talk:

I heard a great story recently -- I love telling it -- of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson. She was six, and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this girl hardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson, she did. The teacher was fascinated. She went over to her, and she said, "What are you drawing?" And the girl said, "I'm drawing a picture of God." And the teacher said, "But nobody knows what God looks like." And the girl said, "They will, in a minute." [Score: 84.3 Excellent]

Here is another one describing his family's movement from the UK to the US:

But something strikes you when you move to America and travel around the world: Every education system on Earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one. Doesn't matter where you go. You'd think it would be otherwise, but it isn't. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and at the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on Earth. And in pretty much every system too, there's a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn't an education system on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important, but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they're allowed to, we all do. We all have bodies, don't we? Did I miss a meeting? [Score 76.3 Excellent]

His entire talk is very easy to understand, and this ease of understanding makes his talk one of the best ever on TED stage. Now let us see how the corporate world communicates. Here is a sample text from some of the largest and most popular companies in the world. I have masked the names of these companies.

We are focused on maximizing our differentiation and competitiveness, and continue to make significant investments in the areas of training, acquisitions, emerging technologies, offerings and assets, and more. [Score -5.9 Pathetic]

We’ve always believed in serving the best coffee possible. It's our goal for all of our coffee to be grown under the highest standards of quality, using ethical sourcing practices. Our coffee buyers personally travel to coffee farms in Latin America, Africa and Asia to select high quality beans. And our master roasters bring out the balance and rich flavor of the beans through the signature XYZ Roast. [Score 56.1 Decent]

Our overall vision is for ABC's to become a modern, progressive burger company delivering a contemporary customer experience. Modern is about getting the brand to where we need to be today and progressive is about doing what it takes to be the ABC's our customers will expect tomorrow.  To realize this commitment, we are focused on delivering great tasting, high-quality food to our customers and providing a world-class experience that makes them feel welcome and valued. [Score 38.1 Poor]

You get the drift, don't you? This test might not be accurate all the time, but it is surely a great tool to check the readability of our text before we deliver a presentation, write a report or send that important email. Click here and get testing.

Thanks Julian for the tip!

2 Nov 2015

3 Questions to Ask before you Present on Demo Day?

In October, 8 agri-business startups had their Demo Day in Mumbai. I was invited by my alma mater (which had incubated these startups) to help these startups with their pitches. In this post I share what I learned from first, helping these startups and second, by seeing them pitch live on Demo Day.

Before you begin preparing for your demo day, you need to ask the following questions:

  1. What are my constraints?
  2. What does the investor expect from me?
  3. What do I expect from this pitch?

What were the constraints?

Time was the only constraint. Each startup was given only 8 minutes. The organizer stopped the presenter when the time was up. This was followed by a Q&A of 5 minutes in which 4 or 5 investors asked questions.

Actually this was a good constraint to have. The more you speak, the lesser the audience will remember. Even with 8 minutes, the investors had to listen for 64 minutes (8 x 8). That's a lot of new information about 8 new startups. They can hardly be expected to remember much.

How do you stand out here? Share what business you are in with complete clarity. Make sure you say 2 or 3 remarkable things, which make you stand out. If you are lucky the investor will remember atleast one of these and this will be the conversation starter during lunch / dinner.

What did the investor expect from these startups?

Clarity about their business. No investor will decide to invest in a company after listening to an eight minute pitch. The pitch is only to get them excited enough. It is like the movie trailer which shows you glimpses of the story, introduces the characters and makes you wanting for more. It intrigues the audience and draws them in.

The investors wanted to know what business you were in, how large is the market, how are you going to make money, who are the team members and how is your offering different from your competition.

This was evident from the questions the investors asked the startups. Actually I am going to share the investor questions in my next post. The questions asked by investors provides us a window into their minds and how they think.

So as a startup, all you need to do is to explain the basics of your business. Clarity is what you must aim at. You do not want the investor to meet you after the pitch and ask, "What does your company actually do?"

What can you expect from this pitch?

You should aim to pique the interest of as many investors as possible. Typically at the end of all the pitches, the investors and startups mingle over food and drinks. This is where you want most investors to come towards you and ask you relevant questions about your business. All you should want is that they come to you and talk to you

26 Oct 2015

Precautions to take while presenting to a new audience

We can present to two types of audiences; First, repeat audience. People to whom we have presented before and second, new audience. People who have never met us and are attending our talk for the very first time. When we present to our colleagues, it is usually a repeat audience but when we present to customers, investors or talk at TED or TEDx the audience is completely new.

Here are 5 precautions to take while presenting to a completely new audience:

1. Boost your credibility
2. Avoid the curse of knowledge
3. Avoid jargon altogether
4. Be more likable
5. Go slow

Since the audience has never met you, credibility becomes crucial. There are two types of credibility. One, your personal credibility and second is the credibility of your message. If you are a domain expert, you have personal credibility. An experienced professor of marketing talking at TED does not need to worry about his own credibility. Having said that, he still needs to worry about the credibility of his message. If you have domain expertise, ensure that it is communicated before you begin talking. Get introduce dwell. Otherwise introduce yourself at the start. The audience should start trusting you right from the start.

Why should the audience trust your message? You plant 'credibility boosters' all over the speech or presentation. A report from McKinsey or Gartner is a credibility booster. A quote from a domain expert. A story or a news article. All these are boosters. A startup presenting to a group of investors can show images of his customers using his product, his manufacturing facility or his own images of doing consumer research. This will add a lot of credibility to what you say. You might be honest, but the audience is meeting you for the very first time and they do not know that you are honest.

Since the audience is completely new, the other things to avoid is the use of jargon. You do not know your audience well and hence assuming that they will understand your jargon is a big risk you are taking. Using jargon does not make you look smart. It hinders understanding.

I was at a Demo Day in Mumbai. Startups pitch to investors on Demo Day. One startup founder was constantly using abbreviations like KVK and PST and the audience was completely confused. When you present to a new audience, you have to be aware of the curse of knowledge. Chip and Dan Heath, in their book Made to Stick, talk about this concept in detail. You know about your industry and your business. Your audience does not. But you do not know, how it feels not to know what you already know. Hence you use jargon. You assume the audience knows what you know and you speak fast.

Lesson 1 - Speak slowly
Lesson 2 - Avoid jargon altogether
Lesson 3 - Rehearse in front of a friend who does not know anything about your business. Ask her to make notes of things she did not understand while you were presenting.

Last but not the least, let us tackle the biggest thing; Likability. We do business with people we like. We invest in companies where we like the founder and his team. Since the audience does not know you, you have to become more likable. Be natural. Do not put on an accent. Do not come across as stiff. Talk with passion and with confidence. Do not hold yourself back. Answer questions directly and do not get defensive. A successful presentation is one where the audience likes the presenter. Likability trumps everything else.

17 Sep 2015

3 Questions your Audience is asking itself during your Presentation

While you are busy giving your talk or your presentation, your audience is asking itself 3 questions. They will not articulate it and they will not ask you. They will ask themselves these questions and it matters to you.

Question 1 - Do I understand you?
Question 2 - Do I believe you?
Question 3 - Do I like you?

I have published a guest article on FPPT.com and you can read it by clicking here. Read it and ensure you answer all of them in the affirmative.

7 Sep 2015

Interview with Brian Miller: How to prepare a TEDx talk?

Brian Miller is a magician (and an entertainer) who spoke at TEDx recently. His talk has already garnered close to 200,000 views on YouTube. JazzFactory caught up with Brian Miller and tried to understand how he went about preparing his amazing TEDx talk. His talk is short, engaging and has no slides. You can watch him speak here.

JazzFactory: Who was the audience you had in mind while preparing your talk? The global audience of TED or the immediate audience at the event?

Brian Miller: The audience I cared most about was the potential global audience of YouTube viewers. TEDx conferences are limited to 100 attendees, and therefore they represent the smallest potential audience for your speech. The real beauty of TED and TEDx talks is that they are capable of reaching thousands, hundreds of thousands, and even millions of people around the world. I designed the speech and rehearsed it with that goal in mind.

JazzFactory: You are a performer. Did you still have butterflies in your stomach when you went on stage?

Brian: I am a seasoned performer / speaker, having performed for over 10 years in front of 1000s of audiences. For that reason, I am hardly nervous when I go on stage. This event, however, did make me nervous. The TED brand carries so much prestige that I was overcome with the pressure to do a magnificent job. I knew that if I could give a truly great talk, it had the potential to significantly boost my speaking career (and it has).

JazzFactory: How much time were you given to prepare? How much time you actually took to prepare?

Brian: I had about 6 weeks from the time I was invited to speak until the actual conference date, and I used all of that time.

JazzFactory: How did you prepare the content and decide on the flow?

Brian: I read books about giving speeches including How to Give a TED Talk by Jeremey Donovan, and watched so many TED and TEDx talks. I took notes on what I liked and what worked, and most importantly what didn’t. My speech was structured in a very traditional way, by using story vignettes to support my main points.

JazzFactory: Why did you not use slides?

Brian: The option to use slides was available, but I have never used slides for a presentation. Personally I feel that slides are more often distracting to an audience than they are useful. Most importantly, slides seem to create a barrier between the speaker and the audience. It is crucial to maintain an authentic relationship with the audience, especially in a TED-style talk, and for those reasons I chose not to use slides.

JazzFactory: How did you rehearse your talk?

Brian: After I finished writing the speech word for word and finalizing the draft, I rehearsed by reading it out loud over and over again, and always timed myself. I made notes and adjustments to the script based on those sessions and eventually found myself rehearsing without the need for a script. I would say I rehearsed the speech nearly 150 times by the day of the talk.

JazzFactory: What advice would you give to people who are preparing for their upcoming TEDx talk?

Brian: Watch as many TED and TEDx talks as you can, and take notes while doing so. Study those who have gone before you for what you think works and doesn’t work. Then use that information while crafting your speech. Rehearse until you can do the talk without thinking about it. TEDx is not the time to “wing it” from an outline. It should be polished and near-perfect. Most importantly: speak about something you care about deeply. Audiences respond to passion, and it is infectious. If you’re passionate about your topic, the audience will be inclined to listen.

We thank Brian for taking out time and sharing his secrets with us. If you want to know more about his preparation, check out his blog. Read the post here.