30 Jul 2015

The simplest way to remove bullet points from your presentation

Bullet points are considered a bad thing in today's times. Steve Jobs never used it. Most TED speakers don't use as well. If you have a slide with 4 or 5 bullet points and you want to make the slide visual and professional looking, what should you do? There are many ways of removing bullet points. The simplest way is to use icons. Here is the usual PowerPoint slide:
Here is the modified slide. The bullet points have been replaced with icons and text. Looks so much better. As much as possible, refrain from using bullet points. Try using icons. Icons are cool.

20 Jul 2015

7 ways to ensure less people Sleep in your Presentation

What makes people sleep during presentations? They are bored. They don't find anything new and exciting. The presenter is lifeless (devoid of passion). They just had lunch and its cozy in this boardroom. They've had a long day at office. Yawn...

Here are few things you can do to ensure fewer people sleep when you present.

1. Keep it short - Long presentations induce sleep
When people know they are attending a short presentation, their likelihood of sleeping is less. As per molecular biologist John Medina, our attention span is only 10 minutes. Since most presentations cannot end within 10 minutes, your best chance is to stay as short as possible and create an engaging presentation. How? Read below.

2. Engage them
Even though our attention span is only 10 minutes, we still watch TED talks (most of those are 18 minutes) and we still watch movies. To engage your audience, ask questions. Show a video. Bring in a new speaker. Make them do an exercise. Maybe move their bodies or stand and do some action. Make your presentation a conversation. A one way street will always make them sleep. You are not here to deliver a sermon.

3. Make yourself understood - We sleep when we don't understand
When things start going over our heads, we ignore what is being said and switch off. If the AC is good, we sleep too. The first step in being understood is to simplify. Do not assume your audience is an expert. Remove all jargon; it impresses no one. Use stories, examples and analogies. This will help your audience understand you.

4. Address the concerns of your audience
Present what the audience wants to know or cares about. Do not present what you want to say. Let me give an example. You are making a sales presentation. You are selling a software which will prevent hacking. You want to say many things about your product, about the company, the awards you have received, the esteemed client list and so on. But what does the audience want to hear?

Does this software solve my problem? How? Has someone else used it? Can I have a case study and some references? What's the cost? If you make a list of what your audience really wants from your presentation, they will pay attention. They have to. Else why did they let you meet in the first place?

5. Show your passion
If you are passionate about your topic, let is come through. Do not contain yourself. Passion is contagious (so is sleep and so is the baby's photo in this post). Move around, modulate your voice and move your hands. Take charge of the room. Your passion will move your audience and charge them up.

6. Tell them something new
If you tell me what I already know, why should I listen to you? You have to tell me something new. A new way of thinking about an old problem. A new insight. A new story. If you are going to say what I think I know, good luck buddy. Keep dreaming and I will dream too.

7. Never present in a dark room
Some presenters switch off all the lights to make their slides look good. They forget that the audience wants to see them. The slides are just the visual aid. What happens when you switch off all the lights and the room is a cozy air-conditioned one? We sleep. It's natural.

Before this post makes you sleep here's a short tip - Never read out the slides. That's a sure shot way to put people to sleep. Read more on this topic here and more about attention here.

16 Jul 2015

Say hello to "JazzFactory.In" - The new Blog and Website

Hi guys. I am renaming All About Presentations as JazzFactory.In. That's the name of my Presentation Design Firm. I had quit my job in December '14 and was working as a presentation consultant so far. My nameless firm now has a name; JazzFactory.In

A new name also means a lot of new stuff. In the coming weeks and months you will find loads of content, e-books and articles on the blog. I will be writing mainly about PowerPoint speed hacks, sales presentations, investor presentations, answer common queries, discover resources, etc.

This blog is now part of the new website JazzFactory.In. Check out the website and share your comments or feedback. My old email ID will be in use. You can also contact me on my new email ID if you want to collaborate with me.

If you are making a high-stakes presentation, remember JazzFactory.In. C ya!

15 Jul 2015

How to pitch to Sequoia Capital? [Business Plan Template]

This is my second post of Startup Funding Funda. SFF is a series aimed at startups and based on some really crazy amount of research and groundwork. Read the first post here.

If you are pitching your startup to Sequoia Capital (or any other VC), here is a business plan template you can follow. Sequoia Capital has shared two articles on their website where they talk about how startups should pitch and how a business plan looks like. Here is a template which captures lessons from both the articles. I have added my views and comments below to help you make the most of this template.

Please note the following:

  • You only have 20 minutes to pitch, even if you have been alloted one hour. It is better to leave enough time for discussion.
  • Audience interest begins to fall as you start presenting. You have to engage the investor in the first 5 minutes so that you earn the attention for the coming 15.

First 3 Slides (5 minutes)
The first 5 minutes is all about setting the context so that the investor understands what you do, how long you have been doing it, how is the business going (traction) and what funding are you seeking.

Slide 1 - What has changed in the environment?
Have you noticed a trend or do you have a breakthrough technology or product that gives you the scope to start a new business which will potentially become a blockbuster?

Slide 2 - What you do?
State in one or two sentences what business you are in. Show it to a layman and check whether the understanding is clear. Sequoia's Aaref Hilaly says, "It still surprises me how often we can get 20 minutes into a meeting without a clear picture of exactly what a company does."

Slide 3 - Fast Facts
This is where you give them a snapshot of the overall business. It can be like a timeline. When did you start? What funding you got? No. of employees. Traction numbers. Stages of product development. How much funding are you seeking?

Reality Check (5 minutes)
Now that the investor has understood your business and is visibly excited, you can put up an Agenda Slide (Slide 4) of what's coming up next. But before you start, pause a little. The investor now knows enough about you to start asking questions in his / her mind. They would have invested in some similar company before. They might have rejected someone who was in the same business. They might have some biases about the industry. No one makes money here? Too much regulation? Scalability is a problem. This is the time to address all of that. Let their mind be free when you start the detailed story (in the next 10 minutes).

Detailed Story (10 minutes)
Slide 5 - Problem
What problem are you solving and for whom? What are the existing solutions to the problem? According to Aaref, "If you cannot convince an investor there’s something broke, they will not be interested in a solution." Hence, this slide is more important than what comes next. You have to convince the investor about the problem.

Slide 6 - Solution
Show don't tell is the advice. It is better to give a demo, else show screenshots. The best way to 'see' the solution is a demo.

Slide 7 - Market Size
You need to calculate the TAM, SAM and SOM (click here for definition). TAM is the Total Available Market for your service / product. This can be given top down (a figure from Garnter or some big research agency). SAM or the Serviceable Available Market is the portion of TAM that you can reach. SAM figures need to be bottoms up (you need to compute it yourself). SOM or the Serviceable Obtainable Market is the portion of SAM that you can hope to capture.

Slide 8 - Competition
Never claim no competition. It is better to reveal all names than letting VCs eventually find out for themselves. Having stated the competitor names, do state what sets you apart.

Slide 9 - Product
Showcase all your products / services along with a development roadmap. What new features will you add in the coming months to stay clear of any competitor. This is also the place to share how your product actually works and secret sauce (if any).

Slide 10 - Business Model
How do you make money? What are the various pricing plans? What would be the average spend by a customer. What is your go to market strategy (how are you going to attract new users). Names of some large customers (if you are in B2B business).

Slide 11 - Team
Who are the founders and what is their background. Do they have any special achievements or talent worth talking about. Also mention names of your advisors. Read a detailed post about this slide by clicking here.

Slide 12 - Financials
Aaref advises startups not to lose themselves in the numbers. He suggest keeping things simple. Show your top level revenue and expense statement (P&L). How much money are you seeking and how will you utilize it to achieve specific milestones?

These two articles are really useful. Read them by clicking here and hereDo not forget there is one more slide at the start. It should have your company name, a one liner on what you do along with your contact details and company URL. Best wishes for your pitch.

13 Jul 2015

What to write on the Team Slide of your Investor Presentation? #StartupFundingFunda

This is my first post in a new series on Startup Investor Presentation. I call it the Startup Funding Funda(mentals). It is based on some really crazy amount of research and groundwork.

Team slide is often the most overlooked slide in most pitch presentations. Most of the time it looks like a short bio of the founders and nothing else. This needs to change. To write this post, I have drawn upon the knowledge of scores of experts and VCs. I have seen startup decks and read a lot of books and online material.

What does the investor want from the Team slide?

It does not matter what you want to say. What matters is what the investor wants to hear. So what does the investor want to hear about your startup team? What is he concerned about?
  1. Does your team have domain expertise? If you are selling software for doctors, what do you know about doctors and about software?
  2. Does the team have the skills to run the business and minimize the risks?
  3. Does the team have experience of running a business (especially experience of working in a startup)?
  4. Will this team be able to work and stay together? Is there chemistry between the key members?
Let us take an example. Suppose you are in the business of selling real estate online. As an investor I need to invest $1 million dollars in your business. What will I ask myself? I would want to find out answers to the above 4 questions. On the team slide, whatever you put has to be targeted at these questions.

Domain expertise - Has any member in your core team worked in the real estate industry before. If someone has, that's a huge plus. If there are none, do you wish to hire someone (once you get funding)? Or do you have advisors on board, who will supply the much needed domain knowledge. Then name the advisors and what they bring to the table.

Skill sets - Running a business needs multiple skills. Technology, sales and marketing and operations. Does your team have all the skills it needs? Who will head technology and why is he suited for the job. Tell me that. Who will ensure that customer acquisition is taken care of. Who will work on operations.

Experience - Has anyone in the core team worked in a startup before? Startups are very different from normal businesses and need a different mindset. If the founder is a serial entrepreneur, that's the thing you need to communicate first.

Chemistry - Has the team worked together before? Will it stay together when the going gets tough. If both the co-founders were in the same team for 5 years in their previous jobs, that takes care of this concern.

Your attempt is to address all the concerns of the investor in as less words as possible. You will only write stuff on the slide so that you address these concerns.

Who all are part of the team?
Your core team comprises of the founders. But for the purposes of this slide, your team means all of these
  • founders
  • key employees
  • advisors and mentors, and
  • investors
Your existing team might not have all the skills and you want to hire a good talent. Talk about that. You need not have the perfect team in place before going for funding. Do you talk about all these people in detail? The answer is no. It all depends on what they bring to the table. It all depends on how we are able to answer the 4 questions.

What to write about the team?
I met an investor a month back who looks at hundreds of decks (presentations) every year. He said, "Degrees matter less to us. Tell me why will this member do a good job in this company?"

Remember your job is to tell the investor your team has the domain expertise, skills, work experience and the required chemistry.
  • Write down names of 2 to 4 key people
  • What role they play in the company (handle sales, product development, etc.)
  • Key achievements from past jobs (increased revenues in company X, developed some product or have successful exits or IPO).
  • Write one sentence about each of them that addresses the four key concerns. Who brings the domain expertise, who brings in startup experience, who has relevant work experience and do you have chemistry.
  • Mention educational background (if its a big name)

The key word here is relevance. For each member, pick something from his / her past which is relevant to your startup. Just throwing names will not help. I like this example from Guy Kawasaki's book 'The Art of the Start'. If your slide says Ms. Mary is on our board of advisors, that says nothing to the investor. Ask yourself 'so what?'. Ms. Mary is blah blah blah and we are doing so well as a company that we are attracting such talented people. Then follow it up by saying 'for instance' she has already opened many doors for us in the industry. That is relevant and useful for the investor.

Here are few team slides from publicly available decks. I have put these up for discussion. These are by no means ideal in all respects. This one is from buffer. A startup which raised $500,000 using this slide deck.

Let us see how they have addressed investor concerns. Joel took the idea to revenue in 7 weeks. That's a significant achievement. He has a Masters in CS. He's the tech guy. Leo is the marketer and his achievements are mentioned. Have they worked together before? We will never know. Many things are said but never written on a slide. Look at the advisors list and you see big names there; Guy Kawasaki. That says a lot about the potential of this startup. After all Guy is backing this.

Here is a slide from Dwolla's slide deck which they used to raise $16.5 million.

Ben is a successful entrepreneur who built his first company at age 18. Took it to 1 million+ revenues and sold it as well. He handles technology, product strategy and marketing. Charise has had good experience. She heads operations, finance etc. and she has spent 3 years in the company (working with Ben). She joined in 2010 and the date of the presentation is 2013.

Looks like too many roles for each person. That's why at the end (of the deck) they mention key hiring plans for 2013: product, BD, marketing, etc. The positive is the focus on Ben as a successful entrepreneur. However, Charise's background gets into too much detail. Here is another pitch deck from square.

This is visually a bad slide. But then this post is not about design. Look at the content more carefully. Each member has startup experience. CEO co-founded Twitter. COO has worked in LinkedIn and PayPal. CTO was a software engineer at Google and so on.

When you make your team slide, spend some more time and think what is there about each member that is remarkable. That makes that member valuable to the startup. Share that.

I have found these articles very useful while doing my research. Check these out: Mukund Mohan Mark Suster Stewart Masters (see point 8) and Nicole Gravagna.

6 Jul 2015

6 Tips to design better slides [Before and after examples]

In my last post I shared experienced investor Vinod Khosla's tips for startup funding. In this post I will share 6 tips which Vinod Khosla has shared in the same talk. These tips are meant for startups (investor presentations) but can be used by every presenter. These are general presentation tips to help you design a better slide.

#1 Reduce clutter
This is a pretty common tip. We all know this, but still we cannot seem to follow this. After you have designed your slide, go back and cut down lots of words. If you are going to present the deck (slides) in person, then you do not need so much text on the slide. One way you can cut down stuff from your slide is by asking "do I really need this?" to everything (and every word) you have put on the slide.

Here is a before and after slide from his talk. The original slide has way too many images, creating clutter.

#2 Five second rule
Khosla talks about the 'five second rule'. If I put up a slide and then remove it after 5 seconds, what will my audience notice? Given this background, our main message has to be in the title of the slide. Write the crux of the slide in the title itself because every member in the audience will first read the title. Our job is to make the life of our audience easier. They need to get the main message quickly and clearly. Read more about this here.

Here is an example of a slide which follows this rule. The one on the left is the original and the one on the right is better.

Within 5 seconds the audience will get the key message (96% lower cost).

#3 Simple fonts
Stylish fonts do not make a presentation beautiful. Stay away from uncommon fonts. Choose simple fonts (Arial, Helvetica) which are very quick to read. There are better things to focus on in life than wasting time over choosing fonts.

#4 One key message
Every slide must have one key message, not two. Everything you put on the slide (charts, text, image) has to support that key message. And where do we put this key message? - right up in the title.

Here is an example from his talk where he showcases how a slide was modified. The slide to the left is the original. The one on the right has just one image (which was there in the original). Plus the title has been modified. 'Glucose Monitors Today' says nothing to the audience. 'No More Finger Sticks' speaks a lot (and that's the key message here).

Here is another superb example. The slide on the left talks about the diabetes problem in the world. What do I as an investor have to do with that? Tell me clearly. The slide on the right talks about the growing problem. It is a big problem and growing fast too. That's what the investor wants to hear; a big and growing market.

#5 Data consistency
The market size on Slide 4 has to be the same as the size on Slide 24. The projected volumes in year 3 have to be the same across. Accept it that all of us make slides in the eleventh hour. Hence we are prone to such mistakes. The slides are made even when the number crunching is still not over. What do you do then? You review your deck and try to find fault with your data. Look for inconsistency. Check every piece of data and remove any inconsistency whatsoever. Else you lose trust.

#6 Avoid superlatives
While making a presentation we use clich├ęs and useless superlatives (read more here) like state-of-the-art product, world class product and best in class team. Which presenter has ever claimed that his/her team is not best in class? Your audience can see through this BS and you need to stop it. Khosla encourages us to show, not tell. Show me how your product is world class and your team best in class.

Want to read more slide design tips, click here. Download my e-book on design tips by clicking here.

29 Jun 2015

How to pitch to investors? Pitch the way Venture Capitalists think

Vinod Khosla, the founder of Khosla Ventures is a seasoned investor and entrepreneur. He has seen hundreds of startup pitches and in this 25 minute video he has shared his wisdom. What mistakes startups make while pitching for seed funding (or early stage funding) and what is the best way to present to investors. I have put together some key takeaways from his valuable talk.

Pitch the way Venture Capitalists think

What is your goal?
The most important goal of your presentation is to engineer an email. Let me explain. Once the presentation is over, the investor will shoot across an email to his partners. The investor (your audience) will write a few sentences to his peers (colleagues at the investment firm). What will the investor write? Your aim is to write the email for him. Plant some key messages during your presentation. What is the company about? Why it is an exciting business? The words and tone of his email determine your fate.

Less is more
The investor presentation is not a place to share everything. You do not need to share 10 reasons why they should invest in you. You do not need to take them through everything. Choose overview over details. If they need details, they will ask and then you can share the same. Take them through the overall story first. Share the most important story which fascinates the investor. 

Reason to invest and NOT invest
There are two major emotions at play in the minds of the investor; fear and greed. Fear that this might be a risky investment and greed that it could be a jackpot for the investor. Address both of them. Give 3-5 reasons to invest and also share the risks facing the business. Then address these risks. Show that you have thought through and know how to minimize the risks of running this business.

Tell me a story
Investor presentation cannot be a boring experience. You have to take care of the emotions of the investor. You have to tell a story with words, pictures and numbers. Do not bore them. They too are human.

How to develop your story? What will you talk about?
Step - 1 Write down all the reasons why the investor should invest in you. Make a really long list. Then choose 3 to 5 key ones. That's it. The investor cannot remember more than 3-5 reasons.

Step - 2 Write down all the reasons why the investor should not invest in you. This is what is going on in his mind at the time of your presentation. Now pick up the top 3 reasons and address them in your presentation. This will show that you have thought through and you have a strategy to minimize the risk facing your business.

Step - 3 Talk about the team, financials (revenue, cash flow, capex, etc.) Do not go beyond 25 slides.

Step - 4 Write down all the questions you think will arise during your presentation. Prepare an answer for each of these and keep them as your backup slides. Show it to them when they ask the question. This will again prove you are a person who is prepared and well organized.

State the problem clearly
Khosla says 80% of the presentations do not make the problem clear till they are about 15 minutes into the presentation. Say this right at the start. Do not make a statement. Tell me the problem you are really solving.

How does a VC decide?
Do you solve a real problem?
What are the reasons to invest?
What are the risks and how will they mitigate the risk?
How good is the team?
How dangerous are the cash flows?

Other tips

  • Credibility is important. After the presentation, the investor and his team will discuss "whether they can trust you?". Ensure you do not hide anything from them.
  • Use a bottoms up approach to market sizing. That is more credible. Saying that as per Gartner the XYZ market is $2 billion is not good enough.
  • The investor does not care about your names. What matters is what makes this team qualify for this job? How will this team mitigate the risks of business.

Watch his talk by clicking here. Take care  of these points when you prepare your pitch presentation. In my next post, I will share the slide design tips which Vinod Khosla has shared in this talk.

25 Jun 2015

How to present your startup at a conference? Lessons from Liquidity

As a founder of a young startup, you will be attending startup meets and conferences. There is Launch Festival and TechCrunch Disrupt. There is TechSparks and Startups Unpluggd. There are many such events a founder goes to and presents his or her idea.

If you have 5 minutes to talk about your startup idea, how will you do that?
In this post, we will look at what Liquidity did at TechCrunch Disrupt.

The startup Liquidity won the TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2015. Its founder Victor Hwang gave a very energetic pitch at the event. I have presented the crux of the entire pitch below so you need not watch the presentation (though I highly recommend you do watch it here).The entire presentation was just 6 minutes 25 seconds. Crisp, clear and awesome!

Step-1 Introduce the problem
10,000 people will die today because of these micro-organisms (shows the villain; a bacteria). 1 billion people do not get safe drinking water because of them. This statement makes you care and also tells you how big the opportunity is.

Step-2 Why is it so hard to get safe drinking water?
It is because the purity standard is 99.9999%. Even a very small amount of bacteria can make the water unfit. Even if you make the water clear, you don't know if it is pure. It is the invisible stuff that kills you.

Step-3 Existing solution
The world until now has been making a trade-off. Some products are ineffective (do not kill all bacteria) and some work but are really hard to use (inconvenient). This is a trade-off and no trade-off is the optimal solution.

Step-4 Proposed solution
Liquidity eliminates the trade-off and creates a state-of-the art product. It is effective AND convenient. No chemicals, no electricity and no pumping needed. We can change the world!

Step-5 Demo
A good demo shows how convenient Naked Filter really is!

Step-6 How does it work?
Here he explains in simple terms how the nano fibre membrane works.
Shows us visually how bacteria gets stuck in the membrane as water passes by.

Step-7 Dream team
The product is a result of scientists, engineers and business people (a dream team working on it). There is 15 years of R&D by Stony Brook University. Concerns about credibility and expertise are taken care of.

Step-8 Our products and roll out
What products are we selling? Personal water bottles, household products and industrial products. Roll out starting from the US and Europe. Next we enter the emerging markets. Eventually reach a billion people all over the world.

Step-9 Product is ready and can be ordered right now!
Order now and you will get it in 3 months.

The presentation went like this: The problem --> Why it is such a big problem? --> What is the existing solution --> What is our proposed solution? --> Demo --> The science behind the product. How it works? --> The team --> The product portfolio and roll out plan --> Order now!

The framework is simple and we all know about it. Google on how startups should present and you will see a similar framework almost on every site. But the question is, how should it be followed to make an impact. Victor Hwang makes the impact and that's why we should learn from him.

Simple Slide Design
If you notice the slides, they have been designed really well. Large images with hardly any text. A complete slide with few words on them. The slides compliment the speaker. They are not meant to overpower him.

If you are interested in reading about how to pitch your startups to investors, click here.