Archive for the ‘Powerpoint’ Category

Pitch Perfect – Tuning the Perfect Pitch

July 27, 2012

I was delighted to be asked to present at this year’s Venturefest in Oxford a couple of weeks ago.

Venturefest is a networking event held annually and focused on business creation. Over the day entrepreneurs seeking capital to start or grow their businesses network and give 15 minute presentations to an audience of investors – both venture capital companies and high net worth individuals actively seeking to invest. I was asked to give some guidance on pitching:

Some Dos:

Plan and prepare your pitch with the audience in mind – put yourself in their shoes: they are thinking “What’s in it For Me.” Point out what they get (rather than what you’re looking for!)

Structure your presentation well:

  • Overture (Many operas and symphonies begin with an attention grabbing start.) Open with a statement that motivates the audience to keep listening. (An overture to an opera includes snippets from the work that is to follow.) Share with your audience what’s coming up.
    (The content of the main body of your pitch will vary but may include “Finances, Competitors and Marketing Plan”) Suggest 3 “Acts”  (but no more than 5.)
    • Act 1
    • Act 2
    • Act 3
  • Finale (Reprise your main points)
Rehearse (Practice makes Perfect) A musician would never dream of going into a performance without rehearsing.
Create visual aids that are VISUAL (i.e have images, charts and graphs) and aid the audience understand the points you make.
Rehearse again.
Smarten up your appearance. Polish your shoes, do up your flies, if wearing one, tie your tie correctly, check your hair, remove dangly jewellery – remove distractions.
During your performance SMILE and make eye-conact with your audience.

Some Don’ts:

  • Read to your audience
  • Use PowerPoint as an auto-cue
  • Be “I” focussed. Too many pitches begin “I want…” “I am looking for…” ” I am seeking £45,000…” etc.
  • “Wing it”

To Prezi or not to Prezi

December 1, 2011

The Presenter as Projectionist?

As Presentation Skills trainers we do bang on about the appalling use of the ubiquitous projector to blast screens full of words at long-suffering audiences. Using PowerPoint or Keynote is certainly slicker than the dear old overhead or indeed 35mm slide projectors but the ‘wow factor’ has long since vanished to be replaced by a weary, ‘Oh no! Here we go again’. In an attempt to the up the excitement, the animation and transition options have become ever more dramatic and ‘whizzy’. In practice the effect is even more wearying as the audience are now expected to marvel at the creativity of whoever put the show together. The presenter has become a projectionist.

Whilst it would be great to step back to first principles, and propose that Visual Aids MUST ONLY be used to help the audience to understand, to remember or to pay attention, so few presenters these days seem to have the time (or the inclination) to work from (to my mind much more professional) cue cards. We are probably stuck with the Visual Aid – not as an aid to the audience – but more as an auto-cue for the speaker.

So how can you (for a while) stand out from the crowd. Well there is a product called Prezi that you can find at This works on the premise that you start with a work area of infinite capacity and simply drop or import words, pictures, movies etc. onto the work area. Once they are in place, they can be rotated, moved and their size can be altered. They can also be grouped by placing them in frames. Once all the elements are positioned, you connect them by a path through the presentation. The presenter then simply moves through the presentation in the normal way. Interestingly, however big or however minute the text or images appear on the home screen, which shows the whole presentation, when projected they, or the frame they are in, will fill the screen.
There is a free version which allows you to create your presentation online and then either present from the web or download and present from the laptop. If you use the free version your work is available to be viewed by anyone and you cannot edit offline. The paid version allows you to create and edit on your PC.

The advantages of Prezi are that it is quick and easy to use  and you can be reasonably creative without being naff. Since it is not being used by many, it is still quite quirky and has some novelty factor. It’s brilliant for showing how elements fit into a bigger picture. The downsides?  The choice of fonts is limited  and that the programme does swoop from one element to the next. If you elect to set up the main screen with the elements rotated to fancy angles, the combination of spinning them back to horizontal and swooping combined, with a rapid transition, can engender nausea in the audience! Still, at least they’ll be awake while they’re vomiting!

There are some excellent ‘Prezis’ that you can view on their website and it is well worth playing with the free version to see if it suits the type of presentation that you deliver before electing to pay the modest user fee.

You could of course use a flip chart!

How Lovely to Listen!

August 22, 2011

I have been training to people to deliver presentations for some 25 years, and it dawned on me recently that the presentations I witness are getting duller and duller. You see, when I train people I train them to entertain and to inspire so that they are memorable for all the right reasons. I show them the best way to craft and structure presentations and then how to create and use the speaker notes to assist them with their delivery.  When I started training in presentation skills a speaker would very occasionally have a picture or an object to show the audience and back then these were ‘visual aids’.

Then came Microsoft with their programme PowerPoint. Now, of course PowerPoint can show pictures and objects – and when it is used for this purpose it is great. But all too often what I see projected onto a screen are words, words and more words which the ‘speaker’ uses as a very public prompt. So, they stop being a speaker and instead become a reader. How dull and boring is that?

However, just sometimes, it all goes horribly wrong. Their laptop won’t speak to the projector; the projector’s bulb blows; there is a power cut or some other joyous event that means that a speaker has to go ahead without their homemade autocue!  Now this isn’t always  fantastic, as often they don’t have back-up notes but where they are brave enough to carry on and SPEAK about their subject, something wonderful happens. No longer are we distracted by the whir of projector cooling fans; no longer do we have to squint at a bright screen; no longer, actually, do we have to decide whether the speaker or the screen gets our attention.

No, because suddenly we have the luxury of being able to focus our attention on the speaker. We can sit back and savour their words, their passion and their enthusiasm. We can enjoy the inflection in their voice, the words that they use, the verbal pictures that they paint in our mind’s eye. Suddenly they realise that they can’t drone on from bullet point to bullet point but that they have to use pauses to create paragraphs for us and summarise regularly to help us understand.

When they sit down to a thunderous round of applause there is always great respect for them. Others comment on how much they enjoyed the presentation. They recognise the joy of being able to simply listen to the speaker… and then they get up and boringly plough through screens of bullet points themselves!

The message is simple. Presenting, Public Speaking, call it what you will, is a great skill and each presentation (if it’s going to be truly effective) must be lovingly crafted. Each paragraph, each sentence, each word should be carefully selected for the impact that it will make and meaning that it will convey. Only when you are happy with the words that you intend to speak, only when you are happy with your prompt notes, only when you have practised and are happy with the passion of your delivery, then, and only then should you ask yourself whether you really need to use PowerPoint. Please, do your audience an enormous favour and consider the answer, “No”.