The basics

Here is a checklist of basic PowerPoint design skills. If you master these, you are all set to designing great business presentations:
  • Program your company colours in the theme
  • Set default shapes and lines to fit your company colours
  • Delete all slides in a template master until you have just the title page and an empty page left
  • Know how to add text to boxes
  • Know how to make compositions of text boxes (including aligning and distributing them)
  • Know how to crop images (instead of stretching them)
  • Know how to make basic bar and column charts in your company colours
No need to learn anything more...

My facebook page: 2% reach

Facebook is a poor alternative to RSS. Because I am not buying ads, blog posts on the Idea Transplant page reach around 2% of likers. Twitter, RSS, email, are better ways to stay up to date.

This is what I always say...

...when I put up this slide [that says something else...]

Solution: change that old slide to have it say what you want it to say!

VC body language

Last week, I sat in the same seat many of my clients sit in: the one facing a VC. I had a couple of meetings in the valley to test initial appetite for my “PowerPoint killer” web app.

The body language in these meetings was very interesting. In all these meetings you could clearly see when people where excited, agree with you, do not agree with you, listen to you, are not listening to you because they are thinking about something else (probably the next question), already got what you want to say.

Read the signals and use them to steer the conversation in your meeting. But this might be hard to do in real time. The big use of this feedback will be your next VC meeting.

Apple Keynote is broken

I really try to like the latest version (6, October 2013) of Apple Keynote, but a year later, I still cannot. The user interface in the latest release has been cleaned up (gone is the cramped inspector window), and initially I thought I would overcome the initial confusion where functions are. I did not.

Basic stuff like centring text, changing background colours, fonts, font colours, all require me to think, which submenu to pick: style, text, or arrange? A flowing, fast user interface is not always a logically laid out one. Functions do not always have be grouped together based on whether they are related or not. In software, features should (partially) be grouped based on frequency of use.

Then there is the “Sorry, iCloud Drive isn’t compatible with OS X Mavericks” error message I get everytime I open Keynote. After Googling I now understand that I need to wait for the release of OS X Yosemite and that I upgraded my iCloud too early, still....

Never change a winning team.

How did you get there?

Many people who read this blog are considering a career in the world of presentation design themselves, I get many questions about how I got to be who I am today professionally.

The answer: it happened somehow over many years, there was no deliberate career planning. Once I was free from a big corporate structure, you can shape the projects you choose to work on. Finding the first projects was hard, and the work I did closely resembled my strategy consulting work at McKinsey.

When you build up your initial base of happy clients, words start spreading and you get increasing freedom to pick those project that interest you. There is a reinforcing loop here: you do your best work in the type of projects you like, which gives you more demand for more projects you like. In my case, I loved presentation design work, and the prize was: more pie.

But. This transformation took years. It required a certain skill base to start off with (10 years of work experience in consulting in my case). At first, you get highly unpredictable income. As a freelancer, you need to like working on your own. A super-specialised freelance business is hard to scale beyond increasing pricing. (See Seth Godin on dumbing down/scaling up, I smarted up and scaled down).

Overdoing the icons

It is tempting to use an icon for everything in your presentation: enterprise customer, picture of a guy in suit; small business, picture of a chef; consumer segment, picture of a smiling woman. Alternative: a factory icon, a house icon, a face icon. Other alternative: browse the clip art library

There are a few problems with this:
  • Unless you are pro designer, icons, pictures are hardly ever consistent in format/style
  • Icons/small pictures add clutter to already busy presentation slides
  • For the viewer in the back of the room, the small icons/pictures are actually hard to see
  • Clipart looks so 1990..
Sometimes keeping it simple is the best solution: 3 boxes in 3 different colours with the words ENTERPRISE, SMB, CONSUMER will do fine. Throughout the presentation, use the same 3 colour to talk about your user segments.

Slides versus speaker notes

During a long plane flight to San Francsico I could see a number of people editing their presentations while stuck in the air for more than 10 hours.

Many of them were editing the exact sequence of what they were going to say to the audience. Changing a sentence, switching the order of some bullet points: they were editing speaker notes, not editing slides.

This type of editing should be done in the notes field of the slide, not on the slide itself. It is a good check for yourself: if you find yourself editing speaker notes in the slide itself, you are probably doing something wrong.

Pick your battles

Arguing with investors will hardly ever change their mind. Investors have one or both of the following characteristics: 1) they know what they are talking about, 2) they are convinced that they know what they are talking about. A successful investor probably has a lot of 1).

Repeating the same argument over and over does not get you anywhere. Pulling out an unexpected, little-know fact though, might get you some points, and showing that your are not a dogmatic person to work with, but can listen and work constructively with a Board member gets you lots of points.

Playing tricks

Paul Graham wrote a great piece of start up advice, targeted at students but valuable for everyone. The relevant bit for investor presentations is when he talks about playing tricks, or gaming the system. Fund raising is a highly visible metric for success, you have a slick investor presentation, you got a lot of funding, you have shiny offices, you must be successful.

Paul says it does not work* like that and you can see how this experienced investor is looking for a honest start story without the smoke screens. An encouraging read for entrepreneurs out there that have deep experience in a field, are on to a big idea, but are wondering whether they have the confidence to convince investors.

* Well, he says that you might be able to trick investors once, maybe twice, but ultimately the truth will come out.

Warm up

Some startup ideas, anyone can relate to. A new social network, a smartphone-based door key, an new calendar scheduling app. Some startup ideas are in industries that are a bit more esoteric.

For a general audience, you need to take it nice and slow at the beginning. Explain the current process, the current situation, and the current problem, and then [boom] comes the innovation. For investors in the know, you can start with [boom] directly (production costs per hecto liter are now a mere $35.50 without any chemical waste, can you believe it?).

But if your novice audience is reasonably intelligent the pitch for both the novice and the experienced audience is pretty much the same after the [boom] slide.

For example in the medical field: it takes years and years and years to become a qualified doctor. Doctors know a lot about a lot of things. One tiny, tiny, tiny subsegment of medicine can be understood reasonably well in 15-30 minutes.

Join my presentation in SF

I will be running a number of workshops for biotech startups in the QB3 Accelerator of the University of California in San Francisco. The plenary presentation is open to the general public. I will be talking about pitching early stage business ideas to investors.

The event takes place on Wednesday October 8, at 17:00, at Mission Hall, room 1400, UCSF Mission Bay (550 16th St., San Francisco). Admission is free.

Details of the event are here, registration can be done here.