Jul 23, 2018

8 Common Writing Errors That Make You Look Unprofessional (Infographic)

This is a guest post by Walkerstone.com

How A Simple Error Can Ruin your Presentation

If you are getting cold feet due to an upcoming presentation, you would be glad to learn that it is pretty common. Especially if it is your first presentation and you want to impress your audience, it can make you really anxious. Well, it is a common feeling, and it is better that you relax and let your anxiety pass. There are many ways you can make your presentation perfect. One of the common mistakes that people find in a presentation is a mistake in spellings. A simple change in an alphabet can change the entire meaning of the sentence. Sometimes it can make you look ignorant. Hence proper revision and editing are extremely important after you finish writing something.

It is often observed that words that sound similar are misspelled interchangeably. For instance, the words steak and stake sound similar but the two words have completely different meanings. Another common example is the difference between effect and affect or bear and bare.

In this detailed infographic from Walkerstone, some of the common mistakes that people make when writing have been mentioned. This will help you check if you are making any of these common mistakes and also solutions for these issues have been provided. If you want to take the pressure off your presentation, you can always go in for professional help. You can go for presentation training or get assistance for a visual makeover of slides or get any other help you need.

Jul 9, 2018

Death by PowerPoint: What 90% presenters fail to do?

I was an Area Sales Manager (ASM) in a leading consumer goods company where I sold cooking oil and hair oil. Every quarter all ASMs had to make a presentation to the head of sales. We were supposed to talk about what we had achieved in the last quarter and our objectives for the next. These presentations were long but very important.

The night before the presentation every ASM used to stay back in the regional office. Our boss (Regional Sales Manager) was kind enough to provide free pizzas and we used to work till midnight tweaking our decks. Our review would start 9 in the morning. We somehow survived and scraped through those meetings. Those were difficult times.

Today when I conduct presentation skill workshops across the country I always ask the participants, “How many of you rehearse before delivering an important presentation?” Guess how many hands go up?

Under 10%. Less than 10 presenters out of 100 actually rehearse their presentations! No wonder they have stage fright, they are nervous and do not enjoy the process of delivering the presentation.

They have worked very hard in their jobs, they know what they are talking about but the inability to rehearse and fine-tune their presentation affects the overall audience experience. They fail to make a great impression.

All you need to do before every important presentation is to complete your slides a few days ahead of schedule and then use the last few days to rehearse your presentation 5 to 10 times. The higher the stakes the more you rehearse.

What’s the best way to rehearse? Press F5 (put your slides in slideshow mode), stand out and start talking. Move about the room as you would do eventually in the board room (venue).

Back in 2012 I saw a good presentation at a press conference. This CEO was confident, composed and well-prepared. I asked him how many times had he rehearsed his presentation and he replied, “Ten. I have presented this 10-minute deck ten times in my office board room.” When you have presented ten times already, the final presentation becomes your eleventh.

Brian Miller is a magician. He was invited to give a TEDx talk in 2015. He delivered a superb talk and it has since been watched by over 3 million people on YouTube. I interviewed Brian and asked him, "How many times did you rehearse?" His reply stunned me. He said, "150 times." Read his fill interview here: Interview with Brian Miller: How to prepare a TEDx talk? For him it was an opportunity of a lifetime. If you too have something very important, make sure you atleast rehearse 5-10 times.

Mark Twain once said,” There are only two types of speakers in the world – The nervous and the liars.” Everyone is nervous before an important presentation. You might be presenting to get hired by a prospective employer or you might be presenting to a big client to win their business. You ought to be nervous. It is natural. You are worried if you will do a good job. You are worried if you will remember everything you should be speaking about.

The only cure for stage fear is practice. Practice your presentation a few times and you will become comfortable with your content. You will stop looking back the slides and start looking more at the audience (this will help you engage better with the audience). When you know your content, you will start to improvise. You will not worry about overshooting the duration because you have rehearsed already and you know that you did not cross the time limit in the last three rehearsals.


  • Good message + good slides + good delivery = Good presentation. It is important how you deliver your message.
  • Finish your slides a few days ahead of deadline so that you free up time for rehearsals.
  • The higher the stakes, the more you rehearse. 5-10 times is good enough for any presentation.

Jul 2, 2018

What makes your slide look good? {Examples inside}

David Ogilvy, the father of advertising, in his book ‘Ogilvy on Advertising’ writes, “When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it creative. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”

Design should not draw too much attention towards itself. And design is not to impress. Our slides help us communicate the message quickly and powerfully. Garr Reynolds, the author of Presentation Zen says, “Projected slides should be as visual as possible and support your points quickly, efficiently and powerfully.” Let us look some slides sourced from the internet (public sources).

Don’t you think there is too much going on in this slide. There is too much ‘design’ that is actually hurting the audience experience. I have improved this slide. Below is the new improved slide.

Suddenly it feels clean and nice. What did we remove? We removed all design elements which add no value. The blue oval for each bullet point, the orange arrow, the box for each bullet and the abundance of colours. We also added a strong and stable header to the slide. A good header is like a good foundation. The blue header along with the blue line at the bottom hold the slide together.

Here is my improvement 2.0. This slide looks even better because it is visual. We have very few words on the slide, and this creates lots of empty space (designers call it white space). The more the empty space, the better the slide becomes. Empty space increases the visual power of what’s there on the slide (images and words).

Let us look at Rajan Anandan's slide from Google for India event in 2017. Rajan Anandan is the Vice President, South East Asia and India. Notice the empty space, less words and a visual cue (the phone icon). To see more of this awesome slides read 17 Impressive Slides from 'Google for India' Keynote 2017.

Now look at the slides of a very famous entrepreneur of our times, Elon Musk. He was presenting at an event where SolarCity was launching its solar tiles for roofs.

This is a good clean slide. The text and the image support the main message that Elon Musk is talking about (Global warming is a serious crisis and global carbon dioxide is reaching record levels). He follows this up with another slide.

This provides the proof that the audience wants. No extra words, just a simple chart which has shot up I recent decades (notice the jump in carbon dioxide levels between 1950 and today).

Elon Musk also launched Tesla Powerwall 2 in this event. The Powerwall stores solar energy generated from your solar panels to be used at night. This slide is quite neat too. Click here to read more his style: Elon Musk starts every Product Launch presentation this way

Here is Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, giving a keynote address at the Google I/O 2018. His slides are simple, clean and devoid of clutter and excess colours. Look at one more slide from Sundar Pichai’s keynote.

He has a headline, a sub-headline and four icons (instead of four bullet points). He has used just one font, four simple icons for visual cues and a light grey background. This is what makes a slide simple and clean.

Slides are not meant to impress the audience. They are meant to help you simplify your message and create impact. Design clean and simple slides.

Jun 25, 2018

10 slides that Tim Cook used in his keynote address

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, opened the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2018 with an energetic nine-minute keynote address. His presentation was very short, crisp and visual. Here are 10 slides from his keynote address. Notice the amount of words on each slide and the visual appeal.

Takeaways for your Presentations

  • Make your important NUMBERS big and bold so they grab attention and are remembered by your audience.
  • Use full-slide IMAGES for visual appeal.
  • Choose a simple sans-serif FONT. You do not need fancy fonts.
  • Do not use too many WORDS on your slides. Your slides are your visual aids, not your crutches to help you remember your message.
  • Think DIFFERENT. Instead of writing $100 billion, Tim Cook's slide has a cheque. A cheque gets the message across better. The message being - The money that app developers have earned through the app store will top $100 billion!
Is there anything else that you felt was good in these slides? Share it with us on the blog. Leave a comment.

Jun 18, 2018

3 Questions that will dramatically improve your next presentation

When I was in IIM (MBA institute) lots of companies used to arrive on campus and make presentations to students. It was an opportunity for them to talk about their companies and the roles they wanted to offer. It was also a chance to create a good impression among the students so that more candidates applied for these companies. These presentations mattered more for the new recruiters on the campus.

If a company came on campus you would expect lots of students to attend its presentation. But it was never the case. Left on their own, students were just too lazy and would never attend more than a few presentations. That’s why the placement committee members would tip the company folks. “Offer pizzas because the students like it” they would say.

This trick always worked. Hungry folks like me would attend any placement presentation from any god-forsaken company as long as there was free pizza. As our happiness with normal-crust pizzas started fading, the companies started ordering thin-crust pizzas too. They sure were changing with changing market realities.

Marico Limited was one such new recruiter which arrived for a presentation before the final placement season began in late 2005. I had never heard of Marico before and so did many of my batch mates. So, when they came on campus there was not much enthusiasm. All the students interested in marketing wanted jobs in top names like HLL (the name changed to HUL much later) and P&G. These companies were the regular ones.

Imagine you are the HR manager of Marico. You have hired MBAs from many institutes but never from IIM Ahmedabad. You arrive on campus. WHAT will you say to these students? How do you decide on your message?

You will talk about the company, its history and milestones. It’s vision and mission may be. And the roles you offer. But is that enough? What makes this situation different? Would you have given the same presentation to another institute where you have been hiring for the last 7 years? What are the external influences on your message?

There are three things to think about while deciding on WHAT to say:

  1. How much time do you have?
  2. Who are you presenting to, what do they know about you and what do they expect from you?
  3. What is the objective of your presentation?

I call these three aspects the CONTEXT of your presentation.

  • Time
  • Audience
  • Objective

Let us answer these contextual questions for Marico.

How much TIME do you have?

Companies were usually allotted 30 minutes and they used to present for 20 minutes keeping 10 minutes for questions and answers. What if the time allotted was 5 minutes? It would force you to cut down on your message. You would say the more important things and leave out the less important ones. So, knowing what is more important and what is less important is crucial when you plan a presentation. While planning your message, you will always want to say more. One good way to know how to cut it down is to mark messages as more and less important. If you cannot fit your presentation within the allotted time, you know what to chop off – the less important stuff.

Who are you presenting to, what do they know about you and what do they expect from your presentation? [Audience]

Who are you presenting to? You are presenting to second year students.
How much do they know about your company? Not much. How do you know? You will need to do some research. Guessing never works. You could ask the placement committee members. They are students too. While doing research you company also discover that students have some negative biases about your organization or your culture. Maybe there was some bad news in the press few months back. This could be addressed during your session.

What do the students expect from your presentation? Pizza! While that is true what is also true is that students expect to be educated about your company, your operations and the roles you have to offer along with the salary package. Above all, why consider applying to your company? Why you?

In the example we just discussed a recruiter (Marico) was presenting to students. Let us take a very different example. Let us say you work in a company and you have to propose a new strategy for the company. Your company sells milk and you propose to launch ice creams and yogurts. WHAT you say (message) will change depending on whether you present to your peers (other managers) versus whether you present to your CEO.

  • With your CEO, you will start with the executive summary and make all the recommendations right on slide one. That’s because you have very less time and even less attention of the CEO.
  • With your peers, you will actually deep dive and talk about every nitty-gritty. You have more time and you are expected to spell out all the details of the strategy.

What is the OBJECTIVE of your presentation?

Let us come back to the campus. You are the HR manager at Marico. Your objective is to recruit students! What else?

But can you do that right after the presentation? No. You are presenting in October and the actual interviews will happen only next month. Then recruitment is NOT the objective of your campus placement presentation.

What is the objective of your presentation? The answer is some variant of this: To generate enough interest among the student community so that suitable candidates apply for a job when you visit next month.

While we are at the topic of objective of a presentation let me ask you this. Assume your company makes software for banks. You go on a sales call and you are sitting in front of the Chief Technology Officer of Goliath National Bank. What is your objective?

To sell! No. No B2B sale closes after the first call. You will meet them many times and the process might drag for months. The only objective you have in the first call is to get a second call. Communicate just enough so that you make a favourable first impression, project that you are a suitable vendor and get called again. You will go into more depth in the second meeting.

The one question that will reveal the real answer is: What do you want your audience to do at the end of your presentation? This will tell you what the real objective of your presentation is.

So, what? So, what if the purpose of the presentation is not to hire students or close the sale. How does it impact your message? It has a huge impact on what you say and how much you say. If your sales presentation had to make a sale, then you had to tell the client EVERYTHING about your company and its services. But if your objective is only to get the next meeting, you will not worry about saying everything. You will only talk about the important stuff and not dive too deep (something you will surely do later).

Do you want to know how did Marico present to us? The HR manager of Marico delivered the best campus placement presentation I saw that year. They had done their homework. They knew that students do not know much about the company so they started out by comparing their revenues with that of the more-known names on campus (Colgate, Dabur, etc.). The moment we found out that they were a big company (revenues) and as big as Colgate and some other big FMCG names we were hooked on. They had got our attention right from the start.

Next, they talked about career paths, something I have never seen in a campus placement presentation. They showed us real examples of managers who had grown extremely fast within the company. They also talked about giving great responsibility right from the start of our careers. This was the second six of the over!

These two slides were enough for us to take this company seriously. I went back to my dorm room and looked up Marico on Google. I really wanted to join them and finally I did so in 2006.


  • While preparing your message, analyse the context of your presentation.
  • Time: How much time do you have? The lesser the time the crisper you need to be.
  • Audience: Spend enough time analysing your audience. Who are these people? What do they know about your topic and about yourself? Why are they listening to you? What do they expect to hear?
  • Objective: What is the real objective of your presentation? What do you want your audience to do at the end of your presentation?

A successful presentation is one that meets its objectives. Nothing else matters.

Jun 11, 2018

IPL or the Indian Presentation League

We are in the age of convenience and speed. We want everything right now. Swiggy brings you food and BigBasket brings you groceries immediately. Cricket also reflects this trend. Indians in the 1980s and the 1990s were very comfortable watching a seven-hour one day cricket match. Not today. We live in the T-20 generation. The match duration has shrunk from seven hours to 3 hours!

It reflects how our attention spans have shrunk too. Getting attention is a huge challenge for any marketer. It is the same for you when you present.

I was attending a demo day event in Mumbai in 2015. A famous Indian start-up incubator and accelerator had mentored and trained a group of start-ups (called a cohort). At the end of the six-week acceleration programme these start-ups were being showcased to a group of investors. The hall was full of investors and one-by-one start-up founders were climbing the stage, making a 5-minute presentation (known as a demo day pitch), and stepping down.

If you were one of those start-up founders, would you say you had the complete attention of your audience for those five minutes? After all you would only speak for 5 minutes.

Do you pay complete attention to all the presentations you attend in your office or workplace? Is it compulsory to pay complete attention as an audience? The investors in that hall on that winter morning were people like you and me. They had their workplace worries and they too were glued to their smartphones. Many investors were checking their emails and WhatsApp even while a start-up founder was presenting. Who loses if they do not pay attention?

Attention has to be earned and cannot be assumed. Make your content crisp, exciting and plan the flow properly. Remember we live in the T-20 era. Do not prepare for a five-day test match or a seven-hour one-day match.

May 27, 2018

How to choose COLOURS for your presentation?

Good choice of colours and great colour combinations make your presentation more likable and catchy. But how do you go about choosing colours for your presentations?

If you are working for a company or an organization with a fixed colour scheme (palette) you do not have much of a choice. In a way, it saves your time. Isn't it? Your job has been made easier. But what if you are creating a new presentation from scratch?


A palette is a set of colours that go well together. When you create a new presentation and have the liberty of picking your own colours, you should pick atleast 3 colours. This excludes the colours of your fonts and background. The most common background colours are white, light grey and black. I recommend light grey or white. 

Look at these palettes from Adobe. Each one has 5 colours. You can pick any of these standard templates and start your slide design. Remember we only need 3 colours from this palette. Let the other two colours remain unused.


Color.adobe.com is a website where you will find these ready made palettes. You can EXPLORE the website and pick and choose what you like.


Let us assume you pick a palette called Aspirin C. Now take your mouse over the palette and click on EDIT COPY. You will see this. These are colour codes. We need these numbers to create these colours in PowerPoint.


Click on the arrow near CMYK to find out the RGB code of the colour. Every colour in MS PowerPoint is made of 3 colours; Red, Green and Blue. That's why it is called RGB. The dark blue on the extreme left has the code: 34, 83, 120.


Suppose you chose 3 colours from this theme - Dark blue, light blue and orange. You simply have to add these colours to PowerPoint and create a custom theme of your own. Watch this video to know the entire procedure.

The colours have been added under Accent 1, Accent 2 and Accent 3.


You can now start using these 3 colours. Imagine you have a slide with 3 circles. This is how you change their colours within a few seconds. Watch this video.

If you have any questions, leave a comment.