8 Feb 2016

PowerPoint Tip - 3 Professional ways to Design your Agenda slide

Does your agenda slide look like this?

If yes, then it is time for you to look at some new ways of designing this slide. Today we share 3 contemporary ways to redesign your agenda slide and make it look professional.

Style 1 - Linear

This is very simple to create and looks very nice.
For the serial number - Insert a square text box and write down the numbers in big and bold
For the text - Insert a rectangular text box

Style 2 - Photograph

Choose an image which depicts 'an agenda' or relates to the topic of your presentation. Insert a text box in a colour of your choice. Prefer a colour which is in stark contrast with the background image.

Blur the image - Click on the image. Go to format (you can see it up there in MS PowerPoint 2013). Choose BLUR under Artistic Effect. The image will become slightly hazy. This will bring the text in focus.

Transparent text box - Right click on the text box and choose Format Shape. Under FILL, choose transparency and choose 10%. You can play around with this number and see how the slide looks.

Style 3 - Icons

Download these icons from sites like iconfinder.com or similar other sites. Ensure the icons are of the same size and represent the text. Icons look good when you have 3 to 5 items in the agenda. For more items, prefer Styles 1 or 2 above.

Looking for more design tips, click here and here.

25 Jan 2016

How to overcome the 3 major challenges you face in every presentation?

1. How to get audience to pay attention?

As a leader you surely have the audience hooked on at the start of your presentation, but as the talk progresses, attention has to be earned. There are two ways to get more attention.

First, be brief and tell your audience that you will only be speaking for 5 minutes. When they know it is going to be a short talk, they will put aside everything and listen.

Second, do something unusual. We expect most presentations to start and end a particular way. Why not break the mould with something new? A role play to highlight the problem you wanted to talk about? A short video to set the context before you begin? A co-presenter who dons the role of the audience and shares the stage with you? A little bit of humor to ease the tension or a powerful anecdote to emphasize the seriousness of the situation?

2. How to make them understand?

Leaders are very often guilty of making complex jargon-laden speeches. How will the audience remember and propagate your message if they do not understand it well?

  • Spend time and understand your audience. Who they are and what do they already know about the topic? Will they understand you easily or do you need to hold their hand and go slow? The more you know about them, the easier it gets to make them understand.
  • Lose your jargon and speak so that your mother can understand you. Will she understand increasing shareholder value and integrated sustainable operations as well as you do?
  • What if you had just 2 minutes to convey the idea instead of the usual 30 minutes? This method helps you articulate your main message. Now build the complete presentation around it.
  • Give an example or provide an analogy. Fill your talk with examples and use videos / visuals to explain complex stuff. If you are talking about something new and uncommon, the audience will take time to make sense. Help them with an analogy.

Watch out for the non-verbal cues of your audience to know if they are getting it. A nod here or a person making a note there. Good! A blank stare or people on their mobiles? You were too complex and they lost interest.

3. How to persuade them?

Having earned their attention and made them understand, you now have to cross the final hurdle; persuasion. As a leader you have tremendous authority and your employees and the media will believe what you say. Then what can stop you from persuading the audience?
It is your over-reliance on numbers and logic. Most leaders find comfort in statistics and numbers and fail to make their presentations emotional. Let us recall what Aristotle promulgated. To persuade the audience, we need ethos, pathos and logos.
  • Ethos is about the credibility of the presenter. As a leader, you have this covered.
  • Logos is the use of logic and data. This is the most used and often abused way to persuade people. This is not enough and behavioural psychologists have found that emotions drive behaviour and decision making.
  • Pathos is the appeal to emotions. There are still business people who believe emotion has no place in the boardroom. This needs to change if you want to connect and change your audience.

How does one appeal to emotions? By sharing human stories and talking at a human scale. What is the most recalled memory of the Syrian refugee crisis for you? The fact that millions of people fled the country or the image of a dead boy on the beach?

As humans we can understand and relate to other humans. A million people is not at a human scale but that one child who died is. That’s why it appeals more. That’s what emotions can do for your message.

20 Jan 2016

7 Ways to Master the Art of Presenting - What I have learned in 7 years!

1. Practice. Practice. Practice. The more you present, the better you get. There is no other way. You will fail quite a lot initially but keep going.

2. Learn to use software. I see many good managers who hardly know simple features of PowerPoint. You do not need mastery. Spend few hours on Google and learn some cool tips and tricks to help you save time and make the most of the software.

3. Entertain. Remember as a presenter, you are there to entertain people. Even in business presentations. Everyone wants to have a good time and no one wants to be bored. Add humor and add stories.

4. Go visual. Ditch wordy slides completely. Force yourself to write no more than 10 words on every slide. Use large images which cover the entire screen. Use professional stock images and avoid clip art.

5. Get inspired. Presenting is a creative skill and you need inspiration. Expose yourself to TED talks. Watch how these people communicate, share stories, make you laugh and carefully look at their slides. You can use their styles in your next presentation. What stops you from learning from them?

6. Read. Read books on presentations and communications. You cannot learn everything by doing. Read a book and then try to implement the lessons in your next presentation. The best book? Made to Stick. It is a classic.

7. Rehearse. Rehearse atleast 10 times before you take the stage the next time. Point 1 above was about - the more you present, the better you become. This is about mastering a particular presentation. To come out natural, rehearse before a talk. Do not memorize, just find a flow. You will have no stage fright if you have rehearsed 10 times.

Why this post today?

Every new year I celebrate the birthday of my blog. What started as a hobby way back in January 2009 is now a full-time business for me. I started blogging to learn more about presentations and public speaking. Slowly the blog brought in enquiries and business. Eventually in January last year I started my own communications business. I now make presentations for a living :)

Looking back, in these 7 years I have written more than 550 posts. Today I have condensed all of that and shared 7 tips that will make you a good presenter this new year. Go ahead and take the stage with confidence. Happy New Year once more...

25 Nov 2015

Sell Your Novel Idea - The Steve Jobs Way

Yesterday I was watching the starting 15-20 minutes of the iPad and iPhone launch. Both were revolutionary products at the time of their launch. But how was it launched by Steve?How will you sell a new idea or concept to people? We will learn from how Steve started and structured his talk.

1. Build expectation
Steve jobs built audience expectation right at the start. He uses words like 'revolutionary technology' and raises their hope. If you are selling a new concept or idea, you might want to start with raising the hopes of the audience. Choose your words carefully and tell the audience about awesome this thing is. The audience must be told that you are really onto something new and interesting. If you will not tell, who will?

2. Share your excitement with the audience
Steve Jobs had a child-like excitement about his products. Listen to this from his talks. He says, "It is so wonderful" when he talks about 50 million visitors to 284 Apple stores. "I don't even believe that" after he shared last quarter revenues of $15.6 billion. "It is unbelievably great" says Steve about the iPad. Be positive and talk good about your idea / product. You need to let your inner child come out and talk openly and honestly.

3. Set the context
Steve does not start by showing you the product - iPad or iPhone. When you are selling something novel, it needs a context. What is happening around us? What are the problems? What is the novel approach?

For iPad, he talks about a need for a third device between a phone and a laptop. But if such a device is launched, it has to do many things well. Gaming, Emails, Browsing, Multimedia, etc. Then he talks about Notebooks and how they are just a mini-laptop. Finally he launches the iPad.

The same approach was taken for iPhone. What kind of smartphones exist today. They are hard to use and not very smart. We want to launch something 'very very smart' and very easy to use. Steve has sold us the very need why a new product is required. Only then, does he tell us he is launching a new phone; the iPhone. Tell people why they need your new idea. Only then can you really sell the idea.

19 Nov 2015

Simplifying complex Presentations: 6 Tips for engineers

You are a engineer or a scientist or you work in R&D. You work on cutting edge technology and you are talking to 'managers' (who are not engineers) who do not understand all this. This is a communication challenge and you need to simplify your talk for it to make any sense to the managers.

Melissa Marshall in her 4 minute TED talk addresses this issue head on and offers 6 tips. I have added my thoughts as well.

1. On every slide, ask yourself "So What?" This is what the audience is thinking as well. How does it relate to me? Why does it matter to me? How is this relevant and useful to me?

2. Remove all jargon from your talk. Jargon is only known to people in your domain. And jargon will not make you look any smarter.

3. Simplify the talk. Bring down complex concepts to a level which your audience can understand. You cannot make the audience smarter in 15 minutes. But you can definitely make your content more understandable to them.

4. Use stories, analogies and examples. This is an extension of point 3. How do you make the talk simpler? You give an example. You narrate an anecdote or a story of how a consumer used a product and what happened. You use analogies and metaphors. Analogies are the most powerful tool when explaining new and complex concepts.

5. Avoid bullet points at all cost. A slide which has 6 bullets is a sure shot route to death by PowerPoint. You have lost your audience as soon as the slide is up.

6. Don't be boring. Use visuals. Everyone knows they need to use visuals. So we will take this to the next level. Use visuals which are relevant and evoke an emotional response. Use visuals which explain what you are talking about. Use visuals which cover the entire screen, can be seen and can make an impact. Use visuals which look good to the eyes (not pixellated photos, but high resolution stuff). Read more about using images here.

Watch this amazing talk right now!

14 Nov 2015

You cannot Present the Slides that you have Emailed

You have received an appointment to present to a potential customer or an investor. The prospect asks you to email the deck (slides) beforehand so that they can go through it. What will you do?

Do not email the deck that you are supposed to present.

When you email the deck - the slides need to stand on their own. You will not be there to speak along with the slides. Hence, this deck will have more words.

When you present the deck in person - the slides will support your talk. Here you should have more and more visuals, photos and less and less of text. Just a few words per slide will do. One slide can simply have one chart and the story will be communicated orally. Declutter the slides to increase the impact on your audience. If you present the slides which have everything written already, what real value will you add?

Change your slides depending on the way it is going to be presented. Will the slides be read by the audience or will you be presenting it in person?