26 Sep 2016

2 Mistakes to avoid in your PowerPoint Slide

Let us analyze this newspaper advertisement. "22.6% of the people living in my city (Hyderabad) are diabetic." That's a big number. That's the attention grabber in this ad. This oil claims to help achieve three things. One, reduce blood glucose. Two, reduce bad cholesterol, and three reduce high blood pressure. This paper ad ends with two sentences. One, 'manage your diabetes with Fortune Vivo' and 'India's first cooking oil for diabetes-care'.

What's broken in this ad?

 #1 Dilution of main message 

This ad will have more impact if it stuck to one message. The header talks about diabetes. The bottom two lines talk about the same. But what do the icons talk about? Diabetes, BP and Cholesterol. This ad will have a stronger impact if it sticks to diabetes and avoids cholesterol and BP. Deliver one and only one message on one slide. Resist the temptation to appeal to all kinds of audiences and say unrelated things. You can say other things on a different slide. 

#2 Not simplifying the statistic 

22.6% is not a number that everyone can appreciate. A number does not have any emotional appeal unless it is 0 or 100. How do you represent 22.6 for a more visceral punch (which emotionally affects your audience)? One way is: 'More than 1 out of every 5 people in your city' suffer from diabetes. That's more relatable. If I have 5 friends, at least one of them is diabetic! This registers more strongly. Numbers like 22.6% do not have that power.

22 Sep 2016

This is the BEST way to Pitch a NEW product to your Customer

Are you finding it difficult to 'sell' your NEW product to large B2B clients?
Are you not closing enough B2B deals because your clients just don't get it?

You might be selling it the wrong way.

New products and ideas cannot be sold the old way. And what is the old way? Old sales presentations start with 'About Us'. I have seen innumerable number of high-stakes B2B pitches as a senior marketer. A large majority of the presentations always started with About Us. There was once a time, when the sales person pitching to me went on for 20 minutes and presented 10 slides - all 'selling' his global MNC to us.

Why do people start by 'selling themselves'?

They believe, and rightly so, that people buy from people and before buying what you sell, they need to 'buy into' who you are. Are you the right partner? They need to respect your company. If you do not talk about your heritage and multiple offices across the globe you will be seen as a small company. And you don't want that. You want to be seen as a large, reliable, competent service provider. There is everything right about this. Except that...

This is what you want. Your clients don't care about it as much when you approach them with a new tech or service. They are asking themselves, do I even need this thing?

How do you sell a NEW product or service?

You sell the category first and the product later. You will sell your company at the very end. Let me explain.

Imaging you were asking your client to advertise on YouTube way back in 2010. Not many companies were doing it then. Your client has never advertised on YouTube. How would you approach this sales presentation? Will you sell yourself (that you are a digital marketing company) first, or will you sell your service first? No. You will sell 'advertising on YouTube first'. Only when they decide YouTube makes sense to them, will they worry about who you are and what you offer.

If I have to sell you 'Cottonseed oil' and you have never used it before, what do I sell you first? The benefits of your brand of Cottonseed oil or the benefits of Cottonseed oil itself. You need to make me buy into a category, if the category is new.

Once the buyer agrees that she wants to explore this new product or service, you can talk about your special product (features and benefits) and then talk about why you are competent enough to be selling it.

12 Sep 2016

9 Simple ways to deliver your first Webinar with confidence

I hosted my first webinar two days back. It was a new experience for me and I had lots of concerns. I have spoken many times before but how will I speak to my computer without seeing any faces. The webinar was an audio only event where I was sharing my screen and presenting with the help of slides.

I had many concerns:
  • How will I engage my audience when I can't even see them?
  • What speed should I speak at for maximum comprehension?
  • How will I ask questions and seek answers?
  • How do I keep a track of time? How do I ensure I do not overshoot?
  • How will I deal with technical snags?
I was supposed to speak for 2 hours 30 minutes and I finished only 5 minutes late that too because the QnA session got extended (the audience wanted to continue). Here is what I learned from my first webinar which will help you deliver your webinar with confidence.

Attending a webinar as a participant exposes you to the challenges of hosting one yourself. So attend a webinar as a participant and see how it feels to be the listener. Observe the mistakes made by the presenter and also watch out for what you like most. What can you learn from other seasoned hosts.

Since it was my first webinar as a host, I made sure I attended a few webinars before to closely observe how the presenter was talking and how were other participants engaging and responding. I uncovered quite a few insights which I have detailed below. I looked for tips online and found this article useful: 10 Things I Learned from My First Webinar.

This was one mistake I made when I started the webinar. I put up a slide and immediately asked a question. Seeing no response I said, "Guys, please respond." To which a participant replied through the Chat window, "We are still reading." I knew I was being impatient.

A webinar is very different from a live seminar. In my case, it was an audio only webinar. I could not see the participants. They could not see me but only my slides. This was the way the webinar was planned. In this case, as the host / presenter, you need to wait.

  • Put up your slide and wait. Let your participants digest the content.
  • Ask your question and wait. Give them time to read, think and respond.
  • Do not get anxious.

A webinar is prone to some audio disturbance once in a while. Moreover, hearing someone in person is different from hearing them over a laptop. Speaking slightly slower than usual helped me and it will help you too.

I had also asked a friend of mine to sit in the audience and let me know if I was speaking faster or there was any other problem. You need allies to rock your first webinar!.

Non-verbal communication has a big role to play in any speech and presentation. The way you move your hands and your gestures, they add to the message. If the participants are seeing your slides and hearing you speak, how do you take care of these non-verbal cues.

Voice modulation is your weapon. Use it well. Speaking without modulation bores the audience and puts them to sleep. Since my participants could not see me speak, I had to work extra hard on my modulation. Sometimes I spoke very slowly to emphasize on a point. I gave pauses. Then I spoke fast. To repeat an important point, I went slow once more.

A webinar without lots of questions is like listening to a YouTube video. The higher the audience engagement the more impact you will generate. The learning will be higher too. I had planted a question on every 3rd slide and used these questions to engage with the audience.

What happens when you ask people first and then share the answer? You engage them very well. The audience is asked to commit to an answer. They are now hooked and want to know if they were right or not. The smarter your audience the more important this technique becomes. It is also important to have a proper QnA session where your participants can ask their questions. I suggest a real-time QnA and not just one session at the end.

Imagine attending a webinar where 100 participants from all over the world are present. Now imagine the presenter (host) asking a tough question. You know the answer and type it in the chat window. The host calls out your name and congratulates you. Do you feel great?

I learned this neat trick from attending other webinars and I used it to the maximum. I called out all the names and read out their questions / remarks. That's why I was able to engage my audience so well in my first webinar. I learnt it from the others :)

Whether you are preparing a speech, presentation or webinar practice is crucial. How will you cover your webinar within the allotted time? You need to rehearse your talk with a stop watch and ensure you do not cross the allotted time.Without practice, you will end up spending a lot of time early on and will try to rush in the remaining part of your webinar. Trust me, time flies when you are in a webinar.

Overshooting is very bad. When you practice your webinar alone, note down the time you need to spend on each section. My talk had 4 parts and I had practiced the webinar 3 times before. I knew I wanted to spend it like this.

Part 1: 15 minutes
Part 2: 60 minutes
Part 3: 45 minutes
Part 4: 30 minutes

I was tracking the time on my smartphone. Every time I started a section I was resetting the stop watch to zero. A few glances once in a while was helping me remain on track.

Test your technology before you start. Go online 15 minutes before the appointed time and test out your mike, webcam and screen sharing. Talk and seek feedback from a colleague or friend to ensure everything is fine.

  • Audio and video is clear
  • Screen share is working well
You must also inform the participants of what is expected of them. Where the chat functionality is. I was using a service called ZOOM which allowed a participant to 'raise her hand'. I could activate her mike and she could ask a question.

The webinar was a fun experience for me and there was nothing very difficult about it. I spoke about 'Creating Startup Pitches than Investors Love!' to a good bunch of early stage EdTech startups. I am looking forward to my next webinar already.

5 Sep 2016

People hate presentations. How to make them love yours?

Most people hate most presentations that they sit through. That's because most presenters bore their audiences and fail to engage and excite. This has given rise to the term 'Death by PowerPoint'. In this blog post I unravel 7 tips that counter Death by PowerPoint and make your audience love your content and love you too.

  1. Make your presentation easy to understand. Clarity trumps everything.
  2. Capture the attention of your audience.
  3. Do not try to tell them everything. They do not need to know it all.
  4. Make your presentation easy to pass on.
  5. Make your slides very visual. Shun lots of words and go for images and videos.
  6. Ensure you appeal to logic and appeal to emotions while building credibility for yourself.
  7. A presentation which fulfills the above six criteria takes time to prepare. There are no short cuts.

Creating content that your audience will love starts with clarity. You lose your audience when they do not understand you. There are a few simple ways to cross this hurdle and make your content easier to understand.

- Stop using all jargon and abbreviations.
- Prepare your presentation and present it to a colleague or friend. Ask her questions and find out how much has she really understood. Now make changes to your content.

- Use examples and analogy to explain important concepts. Nothing should be communicated without a suitable example.

Attention is a very scarce resource and some say it is the currency of communication in this age. No one pays attention to anything for very long. As soon as you start presenting your audience will be busy checking Facebook and Email. How do you deal with such a situation?

- Start with a bang. Make your start exciting and win the interest (and the attention) of your audience.
- Narrate a story. All stories are exciting and gets the attention of people.
- Use a DID YOU KNOW slide in your presentation. Asking a question or sharing something people don't know gets them to pay more attention.

As a presenter we want to tell everything to your audience. We are by definition more passionate about our topic. Teachers love their topic more than students. CEOs love their mission more than the workmen. Trainers love their domain more than professionals who are getting trained. Tell your audience what they need to know and nothing more. You cannot overfeed a person and expect them to like the food and the experience. As they say in Japanese Hara hachi bu, eat until only 80% full. That's when you'll love the food and it will do good for you.

More often that not, you deliver a presentation which your audience needs to remember and pass it on. A B2B sales presentation to the buyer cannot be forgotten within the next 24 hours. A startup pitch to investor should be in her memory for quite a while if you have any hope for success. How do you ensure your audience remembers the crucial stuff?

- People remember stuff when they have fewer things to remember. So talk less in your presentation.
- End your presentation with a good summary and cover the 3 to 5 main takeaways you want the audience to remember.
- Narrate a story. Stories are remembered for a very long time and are easy to pass on.

No one likes a PowerPoint Presentation that is full of text. Will you like such a presentation? Of course not. To create content that your audience loves you also need to present in visually. Good food + bad packaging = bad food. Here are a few simple tips to communicate your content visually.

- Do not use bullet points.
- Use high resolution images and use large images
- Use very few words per slide.
- Replace a list of bullet points with icons.
- Use legible sans-serif fonts in your presentations.
- Have only one slide on one message.
- Avoid too many charts and diagrams on one slide. Distribute these over multiple slides.

Aristotle shared the secret of persuasive communication centuries ago in his treatise Rhetoric. In a nutshell he talk about three things.

- Appeal to logic. Use data, case studies and research.
- Appeal to emotions of your audience too. Use stories, vivid language and quotes.
- Build trust for yourself. Your audience will get persuaded only when they trust you. If you are not the CEO or a known expert in your domain, you need to communicate your expertise first. Get introduced properly and build trust in your audience. If they trust you, they will trust in what you have to tell them.

Making a presentation which fulfills all or most of the six points above takes a lot of time. As a professional presentation designer, to make a presentation of 20 minutes I spend anywhere between 50 to 75 hours. Most of this time is spent in discussion, reading and developing content. As a thumb rule,

- Spend 50% of your time preparing your content
- 25% of your time designing slides, and
- 25% of your time rehearsing your presentation.

Good things take time and a presentation that is loved by your audience will definitely take you a lot of time.

29 Aug 2016

How to appear more confident as a presenter? Design bold slides

PowerPoint slides have transformed completely over the last few years. What was acceptable once looks mundane today. One of the trends today is to use big and bold graphic elements and text. These bolder looking slides will make you look more confident and dependable in front of your audience. Here is an example.

This slide is quite good in itself. But the chart is small and does not make all that impact. A bolder version of the same looks like this (see below). Stretch the chart across the slide (from the left to the right) so that it covers the entire slide and bleeds off the edge giving it a much bigger feel. More confident and visually more powerful and attention grabbing.
Here is another example. The first side was part of a deck I recently received from a client of mine in India. This slide talks about an event that my client was organizing across India.

We decided to go bolder and the modified slide is the one you can see below. In this slide the elements get more importance and derive more power from their size and the way they look and feel. More confident, more attention grabbing. When you use small text, it indirectly implies you are not confident and you might be hiding something.

Going bold entails cutting down on words, making the font bigger and using lots of white space. It also ensures the most important messages hog the limelight and less important messages are deleted. The resulting benefit is a professional looking slide which makes you come across as more confident and dependable.

Here is the last example for today. The following slide is also a real slide made by a client of ours. This slide is not very impressive and makes a bad impression.

The bolder version (below) states the main message clearly. White fonts on big black background offer good contrast. The image adds characters but has been blurred so that it does not dominate the chart in foreground. The chart itself has been made bigger and made as a horizontal bar graph.

Conclusion: If you want to come across as more confident and dependable, make slides that are bolder. You could be making a B2B sales presentation or an investor presentation or talking at an international CXO conference, you need to come across as confident and dependable.

2 Aug 2016

Demo Day Presentation - 7 Mistakes that will hurt you

Demo Days provide your startup an excellent opportunity to face a large gathering and share your business idea with the world. You have gone through the grid, prepared and are now facing investors and peers as you pitch. For many startups, their demo day presentation is often the first time they give a formal pitch on a stage. The tension is palpable and mistakes do happen.

I have attended various demo day presentations and the recent one was as soon as 3 days back. Let me point out 7 mistakes startups make on their demo day presentation.

Not communicating what they actually do

This mistake, though surprising, is very commonplace. While mentoring startups I come across so many pitches where the business itself is not clear. You have 5 to 7 minutes to present and you get so occupied about telling everything that you forget to share what you actually do. Seasoned investor Vinod Khosla once remarked about investor pitches, "80% of the presentations… you don’t even know what the problem is till 15 minutes into the presentation."

How to avoid this trap? Always start your presentation with a one-liner which describes what you really do and for whom. Do you sell software for schools? Have you made a mobile app which allows students to prepare for XYZ test? Spend the first 30 seconds explaining what you do before you jump onto your problem statement or story.

Speaking too fast

Given that a typical demo day presentation lasts for 5 to 7 minutes, you as a startup founder is going to be under tremendous pressure to share more and more. You have done so much work and have so much to say.

Inadvertently, founders end up speaking fast. That's because they want to cover more topics. This becomes a problem for the investors who are hearing your startup pitch for the first time on this demo day. The faster you speak, the lesser they understand. Slow down. Present to a group of friends and seek feedback before you go live on your demo day.

Not prepared for questions

Your judges and investors will have questions for you once you end. After your pitch, you will be allotted 3 to 5 minutes of Q&A time. You will be posed 3 to 5 questions at max and you need to be ready to answer these.

But startups often do not give a very convincing answer or answer some other question (which was not even asked). Once you have prepared your pitch, write down everything your audience can ask based on everything you are telling them (and not telling them) in your pitch. You might end up with a list of 20 questions. That's fine. Now prepare a small answer to each of these.

Not understanding the question before answering it

I have seen this happen quite often. The investor asks a question. The startup begins answering even before the question is complete. After the answer is over, the investor asks the question again.

Listen to the question and take your time. Think for a while and then begin to answer. If you are not clear on the question, seek clarification. The investor need not have asked a simple question and it is important for you to understand the question properly.

Going on talking about your product

As a startup founder you are extremely passionate about your product. After all you have built it with a lot of pain. Now here's the gap. Your audience has seen your product for the first time at this demo day and they do not care about it at all. Why should they?

While you might be fascinated about the 15 cool features your product has, which no other competitor can boast of - guess what? your audience does not care. All they are thinking is, "What's in it for me? Why should I pay attention to this?" Talk about the benefits more than features and move on quickly.

Sharing nothing which is exciting and worth remembering

Demo day presentations are busy affairs. Lots of startups are given the opportunity to deliver a presentation on the demo day. You are not the only one.

After sitting through 10 demo day presentations, the audience barely remembers anything you said and does not even remember your and your startup's name. That's the reality. What can you do about this? How do you ensure you register strongly into their minds. Because if you don't, you are not going to win.

The trick is in sharing two or three extremely exciting things about your startup. It could be a DID YOU KNOW fact or your traction or a story. Make your message exciting by speaking with passion, providing supporting facts, screenshots, demo or sharing a story.

Looking at slides and not rehearsing enough

This one is the most common among first timers. Unless you practice your demo day presentation 10 times before you take the stage, you will forget something and keep looking back at the slides.

There are three ways to avoid this. First, practice well so that you know your content very well. You know what's coming next. Second, have a laptop in front of you. Most organizers place a small screen in front of you where you can have a look at the slide. You can take a look once in a while. Never look back. Third, have very less words on the slide. There is nothing to read and no need to look back. Use your slides as an aid to amplify or clarify your message. There should not be much to be read because your audience won't reading more than a few words. Use a large image or a few words or a big and bold number.