Feb 24, 2019

How crucial is the start of your presentation? [Sequoia's graph inside] (Post 4 of 30)

We have all heard the adage, "Well begun is half done". While it may be true, does it apply to PowerPoint presentations? How crucial is the start to any presentation?

It turns out, the start is a make or break opportunity. Let me show you a graph from Sequoia's blog. For those of you who might not know Sequoia, it is one of the biggest venture capital firms in the world and it has made significant investments in some of the biggest start-ups.

In his blog post 'How to present to investors' Aaref Hilaly (of Sequoia) shares an attention graph.
The above attention graph is for a 60-minute long presentation. The graph indicates how the attention of the audience changes during your presentation. There are a few important implications:

  1. Everyone pays attention to you at the start
  2. Attention falls sharply after about a minute or two (because the start was bad and not exciting)
  3. Attention rises at the end (we usually focus back on the presenter when the talk is ending)

What does this mean for you as a presenter?

The start of your presentation is a huge opportunity. You start well and you earn the interest (and attention) of your audience. You start with generic stuff (which bores) and you lose everyone.

  • Start with something which is critical to the entire presentation
  • Start with something remarkable or shocking
  • Start with a story, example or anecdote (or whatever helps you grab attention quickly)

Feb 16, 2019

How to end a presentation? Tips from Daniel Kahneman (Post 3 of 30)

Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel Laureate and a renowned figure in the field of behavioural psychology. In his classic book, Thinking Fast and Slow he has shared insights about how humans think and act and the predictable mistakes we tend to make. He has one great tip to offer to you as a presenter.

Your audience, as per Daniel Kahneman, has two selves

  1. The Experiencing Self, and
  2. The Remembering Self
The experiencing self lives in the moment and answers the question, "How is the presentation now?" Whereas the remembering self answers the question, "How was the presentation, overall?"

Now the psychological insight is - Our memory is controlled by our remembering self. The duration of the presentation is neglected. What matters is how we remember the overall experience of your presentation.

The two things that affect this are:

  1. How did the presentation end?
  2. How were the peak moments in the presentation?
As per Daniel Kahneman, the way your presentation ends matters a lot. A great presentation which ends badly will forever remain a 'bad presentation' for your audience. Think about bad movies for a moment. If a movie ends badly, even if the rest of it was good, will be treated by you as a bad movie. The reality is, not everything was that bad. Or think about a vacation. It might have ended very badly but the entire vacation was great. How do you feel about the vacation today?

As a presenter, it is important to start well but it is more important to end well. A presentation which ends badly will always be remembered as a totally bad presentation by your audience. So plan your ending. End on a high. 

Feb 9, 2019

Building a presentation? Know your audience first (Part 2 of 30)

You are building a presentation from scratch. The first step in doing that is to decide on the objective of your presentation (read about it here How to start working on a presentation?). The next step is audience analysis. Unless you have followed both these steps, do not start building your content.

How to analyse your audience?

Answer all these questions:

  • Who is my audience?
  • Why are they coming? What is their objective?
  • What do they expect from my presentation?
  • What do they already know about my topic?
  • What is their designation (if pitching to a company/organisation)?
  • Have you met them before? Do you know their likes/dislikes?
  • What are they most likely to ask me?
Here are a few examples where analysing the audience helps deliver a much better presentation.

Designation: CEO or Junior Manager

You cannot deliver the same presentation to your CEO and your peers, can you? Your CEO will give you 10 minutes whereas you can speak to your peers for an hour. Imaging you are pitching to the CTO of a tech company (client). Now imagine, pitching to a junior manager in the same company. The content, the duration, the approach will be completely different.

Talking to clients vs. investors

You are a cloud ERP software company and you are pitching to the CTO of your client. You can comfortably use a lot of jargon and industry terms because both of you understand that. Now switch to the investor. During this pitch, you will have to lose all your jargon because you know that (if you have researched his background or know him well) the investor is an MBA with no background in your sector.

What does your audience expect?

We focus a lot on what we want from the presentation. We want to make a good impression and make a case for sales or investor funds. But what does the audience expect? We seem to miss this question. I remember attending a sales pitch where the person pitching to me (and my company) was told why we had called him there. We had a specific need. The sales guy did not prepare accordingly and came and delivered his standard sales pitch (it was not customised to our needs at all).

What do they already know about your topic?

Very critical to understand this from your audience or from someone who knows your audience well. The level of knowledge your audience has about the topic will help you speed things up or slow things down.

When you start building your presentation, ask yourself these questions and take time to understand your audience. Now tune your presentation to suit your audience. Understand your objective (read more here How to start working on a presentation), understand your audience and then start building your message.

Feb 8, 2019

How to start working on a presentation? (Tip 1 of 30)

You have to make a presentation from scratch.
What do you do first?
You have to think of your objective.
What do you want the audience to do at the end of the presentation?
It is not easy as you think. Let me illustrate.

Example: B2B sales presentation

You are selling cloud ERP software to large companies. What is the objective of your B2B sales presentation?

Sell the software!

No. The only objective of your first presentation to the prospect is to secure the second meeting. It will need much more than one meeting and one PowerPoint presentation to close the deal.

If your 'new' objective is to secure a second meeting with the same client, you would now focus on creating a good first impression and answering the few basic questions which will help you reach round two of the discussions.

You are not under any pressure to 'sell' the software in the first meeting with the prospect. This takes away a lot of pressure and a lot of needless and extra content out of this presentation to the next one.

You can now make a small presentation which shares your company's capability and credibility.

Nov 20, 2018

2 simple hacks to jazz up your next presentation

Fonts have a huge role to play in making a presentation look great. Take a look at these two slides. The first slide is your default. When you open a new presentation in MS PowerPoint, the default font is Calibri.

Such a slide is run of the mill and boring. Everyone is doing this all the time. Now look at the second slide. With a little bit of effort, you can enhance the look and feel of your presentation. You can even own this style by constantly using this special font for all your presentations.

Using a 'new' font does make you and your presentation stand out. But which font should you use?

Use what you like
You browse a lot of websites. Do you like the fonts you see on those sites? Did you know you could use most of those fonts in your presentation too. Here is how to do it using 2 simple hacks.

Hack #1: Install 'WhatFont' Chrome extension

Install this extension. Visit any website. Say, you like its fonts. Simply click on the f? icon on the top right of chrome browser. Now place the cursor over the text and find out the name of the font used. It is that simple. The font that EIC has used on their website is LATO. Similarly, there is a startup called Dunzo. The font they are using on their home page is ROBOTO

Hack #2: Download this font from 'Google Font' website

Not all the fonts would be available on Google Fonts website but you will get most of the fonts. The most popular fonts now-a-days are Montserrat, Open Sans, Roboto, Lato, Muli etc. Download the fonts from Google website, install the fonts, close MS PowerPoint and open it again. You can now start using the new font in your presentation.

To read more visit:
7 Secrets of designing beautiful PowerPoint Presentations

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.