SlideMagic beta invites update

I now have sent beta invites to anyone who requested them, including new requests from last week. Check your spam filter, also check spam filters to look for the email confirmation email. If you think I forgot about you, feel free to ping me. Sign up here to be part of the next batch.

CV language

While at McKinsey I spent a lot of time interviewing candidates. The main challenge in a first interview was to cut through the woolly CV language and build a picture of the real person in front of me. Strategic problem solvers, team workers, risk seekers, people persons, big picture people, all these expressions do not mean much since they have been used too many times on CVs.

When designing a slide about your team, it is better to replace the CV language with the actual evidence and cut it down to something that is truly unique about yourself.

Making bullet points look good

Yes, you heard it from a pro: sometimes bullet points are hard to avoid!
  • In a document meant for reading rather than presenting
  • In a quick internal presentation that is more a decision document than a heart and mind captivating piece of visual art
  • In a document that you use to hammer out a legal agreement before handing it over to the lawyers who will expand the basic ideas into fine print
  • A first and/or last page in a presentation that summarises what you want to achieve
The key to make them look pretty is stop viewing them as text, but rather see each bullet as a slide object.
  • Use some light background colour to make them appear equal in size to the eye
  • Spread them out big over the entire page
  • Use as little words as you can, but use enough words not to sound generic
In PowerPoint or Keynote, you can use rectangular shapes for this. Even easier is it to use a table with fat white divider lines (the new Keynote has lost some of its shine, but the table editing functionality is really good).

In SlideMagic, my presentation app, it is really easy to do. Whatever you do, the app will force you to stick to a grid, it ships with a number of templates for text slides, which makes it easy to add and subtract lines.

Getting used to the image

In conservative industry sectors such as finance, the use of images in presentation is not very common. When I put on in, the immediate reaction is one of: that is not how things work here. But usually, over time, people get somehow used to the image and realise that even serious presentations do not have to be boring.

This slide was created with  presentation design app SlideMagic for presentations that mean business

Confusing accounting

Accounting regulation and business reality can sometimes be far apart. A client could show incredible revenue growth because it was forced to recognise revenues early because of accounting regulations. At first sight, it looks great, but as soon as an analyst tries to dig in only a centimeter deeper (“Why does the cash flow not match?”) the story starts to unravel.

Yes, you can explain them how undo the accounting policies, yes a good analyst will probably ignore the profit and loss account (which is merely a tool to set tax rates), and focus on the cash flow. But, you left an impression of hiding the truth. And that leaves a bitter after taste with investors even if the company is actually doing very well (even without the help of obscure accounting policies).

You might have to come clean up front.

SlideMagic examples

I have started to put up some example presentations that I made with the SlideMagic app, you can check them out here. We are preparing the system for more users (replicating templates takes a lot of power at the moment), after which we will add more beta users. Sign up as a beta tester here.

Sizing up the comet

A number out of contrast is hard to put in perspective. That is why our measurements originally were all somehow related to things we can compare to: feet, kilo (1 litre of water), inch (thumb). But when things get really big, or really small it is hard to absorb the scale of something.

In presentations, you would use bar or column charts to compare 2 numbers to each other. The best comparisons are those where the audience can relate to.

Many people tried to use images to put the size of Comet 67P in perspective (example, example). Below is my attempt, where I put the 4.1km height of the big blob in perspective to the 158m height of 26 Broadway in New York. I think the vertical compositions are much more dramatic than the juxtapositions on horizontal maps.

Sales vs. investor presentations

As long as the content is right in an investor presentation, you probably will get away for poor graphics design. Even if you did not manage to draw that banana perfectly, the audience will get the point. It even shows that you are a prudent CEO of an early-stage company not to waste money on expensive graphics designers*.

That changes with sales presentations. If you show up with poorly designed slides, you will lose credibility instantly, even if the content, visual concepts, and story flow are great. You come across as an immature, brand new startup (which you actually are), and that makes people scared to buy from you.

* Note of a professional presentation designer: getting the slides to look pretty from a graphics perspective is not the hard part, it is hard to get the content and concepts right.

Check list vs. stories

When you ask a VC what to include in your pitch, she will instantly produce a check list with menu items. But taking this check list and use its components as the chart headings for your pitch deck will make a boring story. Grocery shopping lists have not won Pulitzer prices (yet).

Craft a story that will excite potential investors, then go back to the check list to see whether you covered everything. Even if the she says that the only thing that matters is the check list. VCs are human and want to be surprised, entertained, and intrigued.

Stains on MBP Retina display

I have a recent 15" MacBook Pro with Retina display and the anti-reflective coating of the screen comes of, like described in this thread on the Apple support forum. I owned many Macs before without screen problems, and I have not changed my hand washing, food consumption, domestic cleaning habits. Does any of you suffer from this? If so, please add your voice to the discussion thread.

The PGDN test

Many investors will scroll rapidly with the page down key through a presentation that is attached to an email. They will skip the cover letter in the email body (too much text), they will skip the dense summary page one of the presentation (too much text) and will continue to scroll down your slides, stopping at pictures (newspaper readers read the caption of a photo before the headline of the article).

I have seen horribly looking presentations that pass the PGDN test. When scrolling rapidly through the pages you actually get what the author wants to say.

I have seen very sophisticated, professional-looking presentations that completely fail the PGDN test (many were written by consulting firms and investment banks).

To your own PGDN test before cold-emailing your pitch.

Free stock images

Sorry for the link bait title. The amount of quality stock photos (free, no attribution required, do whatever you want) is growing very rapidly. I am using more and more of them. Just run this Google search and see for yourself.