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.

Mar 1, 2018

How to analyse your audience (prospect) before a sales presentation?

Delivering a good B2B sales presentation is no easy task. A lot is at stake and that's why you need to prepare well. But you cannot deliver the exact same pitch to each and every client. When you schedule a meeting with a prospect, take out time and modify the sales presentation to suit this prospects' needs. Here is how you do it. Here is how you analyse your audience (prospect):

  • Who is the audience of my sales presentation? What is her role and designation within the company?
  • In what ways is she different from the last prospect I pitched to?
  • What does my audience expect from my sales presentation?
  • What does my audience already know about the product/solution and my company? Is she an experienced person or a new joinee?
  • How will my prospect evaluate my sales pitch?
  • What are the toughest questions she might ask?
  • Who are all the decision makers for the client? Is she a decision maker?
  • What do I want her (my audience) to feel? What is my emotional sales pitch?
  • How much time does she have for me? (presentation + questions and answers)
  • What is in it for her? How much is at stakes? What if this deal goes through? What if she chooses a bad vendor/service provider?
  • How big or important is this deal for the company and for the client?
Answering these questions before you start making/editing your sales presentation will help you well. Every prospect is slightly different and hence every sales pitch should also be slightly customized.

Want to add to this list? Leave your questions in the comments below.

Jan 26, 2018

4 Things your audience dislikes the most in a Presentation

Dave Paradi conducts a global survey every two years. He asks what annoys them the most about PowerPoint Presentations. Respondents are asked to pick the top three from a list of twelve options.

As a presenter, this survey helps you figure out the top mistakes that you need to avoid, because they annoy your audiences the most. Here is the result from Survey 2017:

  • "The speaker read out the slides to us" (68%)
  • "Full sentences for text" (52%)
  • "Text too small to read" (49%)
  • "Visuals too complex" (34%)

What does this mean for you as a presenter?

  1. Never ever read out the text from your slide. Your audience can read it themselves. They don't need you to do it.
  2. When presenting a deck in-person, do not write full sentences. Write 2-3 words and explain the rest of your content orally.
  3. Use large and legible fonts. Never go below 20. If you are presenting in a very large venue, try to visit the venue beforehand to test your slides or go with a large font size of 30 or more.
  4. Do not create complex charts and graphs. Avoid more than 2 charts on a slide. Avoid sharing too many data points on a slide. If your chart is complex, you might to only share the analysis and not the chart. After all, the audience cares more about the message.
Read the complete article here: Results of the 2017 Annoying PowerPoint survey

Jan 19, 2018

Startup Investor Pitch Workshop in Kolkata, India

I am organising a day-long presentation workshop for startups in Kolkata on February 4, 2018. If you are interested, enter your mobile number by clicking hereIt is ideal for early-stage startups looking to raise their first/second round.

3 hours: Workshop by me
3 hours: LIVE Pitching by each startup + Feedback to each startup


1. How to pitch to angels and VCs?
2. What does the investor look for?
3. How to structure your pitch?
4. What to say to an investor? (complete template)
5. How to design good slides?
6. Common mistakes to avoid while pitching

Book now by clicking here

Jan 15, 2018

How good are my Slides? Evaluate using this Slide Design Checklist

You have prepared your slides. But you are unsure if your slides are really good. What if you had a checklist through which you could run your slides. Here is one checklist.

Your slides are good if your response is YES to all the items on this checklist.
  • I have not used bullet points
  • I have prepared a slide (with few words) and not a report (with lots of words)
  • My photos are not hazy (pixellated)
  • I have not used cliched images and WordArt
  • I have not distorted the image while enlarging it
  • My fonts are legible. I have not used fonts below size 18
  • My charts are simple and easy to understand
  • I have not used 3-D charts
  • I have not used boring fonts like Arial, Calibri or Garamond
  • I have used a sans-serif font. I have not used a serif font
  • I have not used fancy fonts
  • I have not used more than 3 colours in my presentation
  • I have not used watermarked images
If your answer is NO to any of the above points, it is time to fix that problem. Unsure about how to fix? Ask your question in the comments section below.

Want to read more on slide design? I recommend these articles: