Posts Tagged ‘powerpoint’

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”
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Lecturers as Presenters? 5/10

July 30, 2010

For three years Grant Thornton the accountancy firm has booked us to run our Powerful Presentation Skills workshop for its summer intake of interns. This year there are fifty really bright, sparky and enthusiastic interns from universities across the UK (the firm’s recruiters are to be congratulated, we were really impressed with each and every one of the students we met.)

A couple of common (and I would suggest, worrying) themes are emerging. Firstly, that at school, students are often asked to present using PowerPoint. They are instructed to use slides that contain “words only ” (“no pictures please”) and that those words should be “black text on white background.” Like a man breaking wind in a lift, this is wrong on so many levels! It transpires that the reasoning behind this is that the presentation will ultimately form part of  their “exam assessment” and, therefore, a transcript is needed. Great for the examiner – not so great for the audience watching the presentation!

Good place for a nap!

As much as anything, projecting a white background at an audience for long periods can cause photokeratitis (or snow-blindness).  So, imagine what might happen if students have to watch an hour or two of back-to-back presentations given by their fellow pupils… the symptoms include pain, redness, swollen eyelids,headaches, halos around lights, hazy vision and in extreme cases temporary loss of vision. These symptoms may not appear for 6-12 hours. (A warning here then for companies that hold conferences and project bright screens at audiences in darkened rooms all day!)

Words do not make for good “visual aids” they are not visual and don’t necessarily aid the audience’s understanding or recall. No wonder PowerPoint gets misused when school students are taught to use it in this way.

But what worries me even more is the second theme that has emerged in our time training university students: those of their lecturers that use PowerPoint mostly do the same thing; fill up their slides with words.

Research at The University of South Wales showed that whilst we are happy to process either the written or the spoken word – we’re not good at doing both at the same time. Therefore, we’ll tune out one or the other. If the lecturer’s any good and there are too many words – we’ll tune out the slides (the slides are pointless!) If the speaker directs us to read them (usually by turning their back on us and reading them out loud (and boy, don’t you just hate that) then the speaker is tuned out!

But it’s not just many lecturers’ propensity to use PowerPoint as an auto-cue that worries us. On seeing our training the interns are telling us that their lecturers are committing other cardinal sins, but in particular:

Essential reading

Not giving an overview or review of their lecture. Stavros Sophocles, one of the famous Greek Orators, intimated that if you want an audience to remember what you’ve said to them (surely one of the key points to giving a lecture) that you should, “Tell the audience what you’re going to tell them, tell the and then tell them what you told them.” Apparently this doesn’t happen terribly often. It’s a fundamental that Tony Buzan covers in his brilliant books on learning and in particular in “Use your Head“. I think that anyone involved in learning (pupils and students too), lecturing or teaching should read this book.


BoredomOther crimes cited include (but not limited to): reading from notes or books for extended period of time; not engaging with the audience; staying behind a lectern; distracting fidgets; mumbling; erming and erring, not giving eye-contact and so on. No wonder then students often resort to passing notes to each other, twittering during lectures and playing “DISTRACTION!” an interactive game played on the internet by students against fellow classmates during their boring lecture classes. The DISTRACTION! website says the game, similar to Bingo, is used as a way to stay occupied and have fun during class. Students have to watch out for events such as “Lecturer gets ahead of himself on PowerPoint,” “Student asleep,” “Projector doesn’t work,” “Lecturer throws chalk” etc.

Invariably when we collect in our feedback forms in at the end of our course a common comment is, “Our lecturers could do with coming on this course!” You’d think that ,surely, a pre-requisite of allowing anyone to teach would be for them to undergo some basic presentation skills training – apparently not.

Score for presenting

Of course, we did hear of the rare inspirational lecturers who were brilliant at engaging with their audience, who used anecdotes and stories to bring alive their lectures, who did use PowerPoint to show great images and interesting graphs & charts, and who did introduce and conclude their lectures well. It’s just a shame it’s not the standard!

Asking our students to score their lecturers against our course content comes up with a score of 5/10. Must do better.


Top Tips for using a Flip Chart

May 27, 2010

Here’s a little video we made with some trade secrets for using a flip chart as a visual aid.

You’ll find more Tips on our site’s FREE Downloads page

Keynote vs. PowerPoint

February 23, 2010

Almost as dangerous as PowerPoint

At New Tricks Training we have a saying… “PowerPoint is a powerful tool, but so’s a Smith & Wesson. In the wrong hands both can kill.”

Of course, it comes down to obeying some golden rules of PowerPoint:

  • Use no more than 20 words a slide over no more than six bullet points
  • Use high-resolution pictures to tell a story
  • Never use clip art (all the images have already been seen before)
  • Don’t apply in-house brand guidelines unless designed specifically for projection
  • Don’t put copy right messages on slides you intend to show to an audience – it just distracts
  • Choose your background carefully
  • Don’t use distracting animations.

Here’s an article from the BBC. But there again the tool you use to make your point powerfully can make a huge difference. Where we can we use Apple’s presentation software, Keynote.  Whether you use PowerPoint or Keynote (or even Prezi – more of that another time) we’re only too willing to help folk design a better presentation. Here’s a short demonstration of Keynote’s versatility.

The Perfect Pitch

February 22, 2010

In an ever more sophisticated and competitive world, increasingly businesses (even small ones) are being asked to tender for work, either through a formal process of submitting a tender document followed by a presentation, or by presenting their proposals in competition with others. This way in which business is won can create real problems unless the sales team learns to adapt their approach.

In business-to-business selling a transaction is often conducted technician to technician or specialist to specialist. As a result there is usually a common understanding about what the solution to be purchased needs to achieve and so the discussion can focus on the technical elements of the proposition.  However, if the buying decision is to be made by panel, it introduces a whole new dynamic.

Pitching to a panel?

Suppose you have been asked to tender for the supply of a new software solution for a large company; it is vital to recognise that you cannot simply submit a technical specification and expect to win the business. Your tender document and your presentation will be scrutinised by a group of people – all with very different agendas.  You may well find yourself having to satisfy the needs of the IT Director, the Sales Director, the Finance Director, the end user and the HR Director. What is more, it may be the absent Managing Director, based upon recommendations from the panel, who takes the ultimate decision.

We recently tendered to support a large organisation, who were in turn tendering for a major contract. As we were pitching for the business, our research quickly confirmed that their requirements went far beyond the initial request for help with just the delivery of the presentation, which is where they assumed they had been losing out.  In fact, they had been making the mistake of sending out the technical champion of the product who could (and did) talk about the technical features for hours, supported by his PowerPoint Presentation with 142 very wordy slides !

An “aha” moment for them came when one of the team used the analogy of selling a car: “You wouldn’t send out a mechanic to sell it, would you?”

They asked for one day of ‘Presentations Skills Training’ evolved into three days where the first two were used to analyse and understand the needs and aspirations of the individuals on the purchasing panel, before honing the message to satisfy them all.  By the end of our third day we had worked together, yes, on the skills to deliver a great pitch presentation but more importantly on its structure, the words to be used and the supporting visual aids. They are now winning the pitches they were losing before.

The moral of the story is this; tendering and competitive pitches are much more than just another sale and there is a path to follow that will give the best chance of success. Whatever you do: put yourself into the shoes of the individuals on the panel consider their concerns and then address them!

Bra-tastic training

October 8, 2009

It is not every day that we get to deliver a course aimed at four pink bras!  But today we did just that to an awesome foursome with a mad mission in mind! The ladies in question (in the photo below) are Deb Hunt, Helen Taylor, Annemarie Smith and Audra Selley.  Their story starts (ironically) on April Fools’ Day 2008 when Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer.  After a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy she is well again and decided to do a skydive to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.  After that amazing feat, the others, three of her friends, decided that they wanted to do something in support.  They became a sort of Three Musketeers to Deb’s d’Artagnan – the self-styled “Four Pink Bras” and they have embarked on a challenge to raise £20,000 by way of a sponsored climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Naturally they are looking for cash but were also asking seeking sponsorship in kind.

The Four Pink Bras

The Four Pink Bras, Deb, Helen, Annemarie and Audra

At NewTricks we know how vital it is for speakers going out onto the networking circuit – in order to raise funds – to deliver a cracking presentation.  However great the cause, nobody wants to be bored out of their mind at 7:30am!  And so with that in mind we offered one of pur Powerful Presentation Skills training course for the “Four Pinks Bras”… and what a great day we enjoyed with them all.

Four nervous ladies arrived at Bloxham Mill Business Centre – who kindly donated the use of one of their conference rooms – and four far more confident ladies have departed.

In our day together we concentrated on putting together a talk with a good structure and explored the ways in which they could hold an audience’s attention. We then focused on how to make the presentation memorable and achieve the objectives that they have set themselves.  Some time was spent on ways to overcome nerves and on delivering a presentation with real flair. Finally  (and vitally) we looked for alternatives to the dreaded bullet points in PowerPoint… see our twitter post on that very subject!

Good luck to the ladies with your fund raising (you can make a donation – dosh or services via their splendidly titled (or is that tittled) Twin Peaks website) and we are looking forward to hearing all about it when they return. That’ll be another presentation then – we’ve already booked them in to The 729 Club in Chipping Norton!

All for one and one for all!

Local pupils’ presentation skills are fantastic!

May 1, 2009
Young Enterprises Area Final, Banbury

Young Enterprises Area Final, Banbury

I act as a business mentor to pupils at my local school in Chipping Norton. As part of the Young Enterprises initiative. Pupils start a company, raise share capital, produce products and sell them before distributing profits and winding up their company. Successful companies go forward to Area and National finals where they present to a large audience of local dignitaries, business people and of course their competitor schools.

I was particularly chuffed that last night Chippy school’s Polkdots & Bobs (a company selling handmade bags, earrings and other gifts) won the Area final’s Best Presentation Award. Their presentation skills put to shame many presenters that I see (nay endure) at large corporates. They were relaxed, looked eminently confident, spoke clearly and  succinctly – yet giving the essential information needed by the judges. What’s more their Powerpoint presentation was mercifully light on words and used images to great effect.

Well done guys and gals!