Archives for July 2014

Presentation Lessons from the Shark Tank

So here’s the setting: Standing in the wings, a nervous entrepreneur has an idea. He or she is not just looking at their product pitch as a quick path to personal wealth. It also seems a part of their DNA – to create something from nothing.

But they have a problem. Not enough cash to make their dream a reality and they need to get more of the stuff from probably the most intimidating audience they’ll ever encounter: venture capitalists. You see, those investors’ motivation is rarely altruistic. It has everything to do with making money…lots of it and with deal leverage that feels like your children, dog and golf clubs may be included.

What I’m describing here  is one of the most highly-rated TV shows going, The Shark Tank.

So let’s see if we have our arms around this high-pressure presentation scenario:

  • The stakes are huge
  • They only have moments to make their case – not hours
  • The message has to be crystal clear and uniquely solve a problem
  • There are no do-overs – they have one shot
  • And their audience sits through countless pitches every day and they need to stand out!

Hmm…this situation sounds vaguely familiar. It seems to also describe the vast majority of the presentation scenarios each one of us find ourselves in on a regular basis. And if it’s not related to funding or budgets, it most likely has something to do with your career, reputation or influence with important people.

So how can you best leverage your shark tank scenarios in the workplace? Here are three simple ideas for you:

1) If you aren’t connecting with real issues in seconds, you lose.

Think about it, budgets are allocated to address needs. New products to solve problems. Company policy changes to address potential issues or partner planning presentations to improve on last year’s challenges. Just about every presentation these days has something to do with addressing needs or issues in some way, shape or form.

Here’s a model to heighten engagement with the sharks in your life, featuring an actual Shark Tank example, called The Inventioneers

Set expectations:  “We’re here to ask for $100k for 15% of our company

Pain:Distracted driving is a major concern for most families

Effect: Over 18 children die every day in car accidents”

Need: “So how can we raise the focus of teenage drivers to this issue?”

Solution: The Smart Wheel!

Benefits: Parents are notified via text when unsafe driving is detected

Differentiation:Today we only have a child’s promise they will be careful”

Validation: And we are currently in negotiation with major car companies…

Close: Partner with us so you can make money and we can save lives

2) If you aren’t passionate about your idea, don’t expect others to be.

I understand not everyone is wired with the high energy gene – but people rarely engage with others who don’t appear to be enthusiastic about their own idea. I guarantee you that many of the inventors coming to the Shark Tank were probably not cheerleaders in high school, but that changes nothing. They practiced at least the perception of passion and had to reach down deep and find a way to convey enthusiasm.

For you, find someone to be your “passion barometer.”  We are our own worst measuring stick for this attribute and need to use others to honestly tell us… I’m just not getting very excited about this idea because you’re just not there yet either.

3) The perception of confidence can be learned.

Confidence is infectious. And those who appear confident and comfortable in their own skin put us at ease too. Unfortunately, there are many people we encounter every day who look anxious and uncomfortable and sometimes it’s just plain hard to listen to them much less buy into their idea or plan.

Well, the good news is that there are very specific skills that can be learned to convey the perception of confidence – even though there may be a great deal of turmoil going on inside you. (Only you know that).

This starts with keeping your head up…eyes engaged and making the complex simple for others to understand.

There’s a reason the Shark Tank is one of the most popular shows on TV.

We admire those who have the courage to take a chance in the tank. We’re fascinated by their ideas and how simply they explain them. And when they succeed and get some money for their ideas, we share just a little bit in their success.

So take on your Shark Tank this week!  Make the complexities of your message so simple people can understand your idea in seconds. Keep that head up and help others get caught up in your enthusiasm. Those are the things that make the difference  between being heard or quickly forgotten in a sea of other voices.

Don’t just survive in your personal shark tank. Thrive in it.

About the Author:

Jim Endicott is president of Distinction Communication Inc, a Newberg, OR consulting firm specializing in message development, presentation design and delivery skills coaching. For more information about the company, visit

The 5-Point Formula for Powerful Presentations with Author, Simon Morton

brainshark - sponsor logo webinar with play button


watch now on Brainshark

The presentations that are the most critical to the success of your organization today are not the ones delivered on stage in front of hundreds of rapt listeners.  They are the ones you and your colleagues deliver every day, looking to connect with an audience – of a few, or many – and drive action.  This webinar will challenge everything you thought you knew about creating and delivering engaging business presentations.

Based on Simon Morton’s critically-acclaimed book, The Presentation Lab: Learn the Formula behind Powerful Presentations”, this webinar is a great resource for the everyday presenter looking to drive results.  book framedHis consultancy, Eyeful Presentations has perfected their methodology and created a formula for the success of their clients. Watch this webinar and Simon will teach you how to successfully:

        • Assess the needs of your audience
        • Structure an effective story
        • Be prepared for informal, interactive presentations
        • Use visuals with real meaning
        • Master nuances for blended presenting – live or on demand, in person or online, or a combination


About Simon Morton, Eyeful PresentationsSimon_morton with frame

Simon Morton’s early career as an executive for an international technology company exposed him to more PowerPoint presentations than was good for him.  With his firm, Eyeful Presentations, based in the UK and with 6 international offices, Simon has been ridding the world of ‘Death by PowerPoint’ for over 10 years.  In his new book, The Presentation Lab: Learn The Formula Behind Powerful Presentations, Simon shares the methodology and approach that has driven Eyeful’s success and that of its world-class clients.

5 Ways to Keep Your Sales Team Focused on Presentation Skills

Last week I received a call from a sales manager whose team we worked with last year. He wanted a presentation skills “refresher” for his salespeople because their presentations were getting “sloppy” again.

These were the same salespeople who did extremely well during our training class one year ago, but over the months they had gradually slid back into old habits. Granted, they were still “pretty good” in terms of their skills. But the manager wanted them to be great again.

While this is certainly frustrating for the sales manager, it is understandable. After all, salespeople have a lot to balance between prospecting, selling, client follow-up, and all the other things they must do in a day. With so much on their plate, they often let things like speech preparation slide to the back burner.

Unfortunately, the result is that their presentations don’t always hit the mark, and they may look ill-prepared in front of prospects and clients.

From the manager’s standpoint, though, he’s not happy. He wants his team to shine. He’s invested time and money to train them, and he knows they have aptitude and skills to deliver successful presentations to their customers. And while he knows that doing things like prospecting and client support are important, he also wants them to find the time to keep their presentation skills up-to-date so they communicate effectively and consistently deliver high quality presentations.

We talk a lot about Continuous Learning in our programs, but it requires more than simply filling out a worksheet. Salespeople have the best intentions, especially in a training class, but they need help to realize their goals and it’s often the sales manager who can provide that level of support.

So what can a sales manager do to stir things up, enlist everyone’s commitment, and keep the team motivated so they can perform at a high level?

Here are five tips for keeping your sales team focused on improving their presentation skills:

  1. Plan for continuous learning: Part of the challenge of continuous learning is staying focused. It’s easy to set goals but it’s difficult to follow through and actually achieve them. That’s why support and accountability are important. I recommend having everyone on your team create a three-month presentation skills action plan. Set aside time during staff meetings so everyone can share their action plan with the team, get feedback from others, and then refine the action plan as needed.
  2. Pair up for progress: The buddy system works. Have people pair up and commit to working with a partner for the duration of the action plan. Encourage the “pairs” to find creative ways to help and challenge each other. For example, they can listen to each other on phone calls and give feedback, or they can practice the same skill for one week and make it a point to catch each other doing it well.
  3. Use audio and video: We have more than enough technology options to keep us on track. For example, encourage salespeople to use their cell phone, tablet, or video camera for video/audio feedback. During playback, have them analyze themselves. How do they sound? Clear, organized, and passionate … or boring, monotonous, and rambling? Watching short clips of yourself as you prepare or present will give you good feedback on your body language and facial expression. Another idea is to have them transcribe their calls or use a program like Dragon Naturally Speaking to have their voice presentation turned into text. This is a great way for them to analyze their vocal skills, count their fillers (“um,” “ahh,” etc.), and check their vocabulary and word choice.
  4. Develop a resource file: Collect effective hooks, touch points, (stories, metaphors, examples, facts, statistics, humorous comments, etc.) and final thoughts that everyone on your team can use. This is a great way to “share the wealth” and ensure consistency.
  5. Use regular staff meetings: Take advantage of regular staff meetings for giving formal feedback. For example, use your status meeting every Monday, your bi-monthly presentations, or your all-hands meetings as a platform for skill development. Have people take turns giving a presentation at the meeting and getting feedback on their presentation from others. Use audio or video to record the presentations.

No matter how busy people are, continuous learning is possible. When everyone works together for the betterment of the team, staying focused on improving your presentation skills is possible…and relatively simple. Even better, when this philosophy becomes part of your company’s culture, new hires will be up-to-speed much quicker.

So implement these 5 strategies today and watch your sales team’s presentation skills (and closing ratios) soar.

About the Author:

Angela DeFinis is the founder and president of DeFinis Communications, a presentation skills training company that offers a curriculum of professional public speaking programs and services for Fortune 1,000 companies in all industries. Specializing in executive speech coaching, DeFinis helps business leaders find solutions to their presentation challenges so they can successfully compete in a demanding marketplace. For more information, visit

How to Create Slides that Print Well in Black and White

One of the participants in a recent workshop asked how the colorful charts and visuals I was showing would work when printed in grayscale on a black and white laser printer. For those who usually present with printed slides instead of projecting them on a screen, this is a real concern.

Here is the issue with typical color slides printed in grayscale:

Example 1 v2

As you can see in the grayscale printout, the two default chart colors are translated to shades of gray. Because both columns are a dark gray, the two columns are now much harder to distinguish from each other. Your slide that looked good in color doesn’t look very good when printed in grayscale.

Here are four ways to make your slides print well on a black and white laser printer.

1) Select colors that are significantly different

The problem with many templates and color schemes is that the colors look good on a screen, but don’t translate well to grayscale. Since the grayscale printing translates colors to shades of gray, use colors that are different enough that the shades they are translated to will be easy to distinguish.

A lighter color and a darker color will work better than two darker colors. You may also want to add a line around a shape with a lighter fill color so it is easier to see when printed in black and white.

2) Use pattern fills instead of colors

When filling shapes in a diagram or a graph, consider using different patterns, such as dots or diagonal lines as a fill instead of a color. When printed in black and white, these patterns show up nicely. The patterns were removed in PowerPoint 2007, but returned in PowerPoint 2010 (this article gives an option if you are using PowerPoint 2007).

3) Place explanatory labels close to the data

When using graphs, having colored labels for each series of data does help, but when the slide is printed in black and white, the colors don’t help any more. Instead of relying just on the color of the labels, make sure that each label is placed close to the data it is describing. This way, the audience will know what the data represents by which label is closest.

One challenge comes when you are using a dark fill color for a shape or graph element. You will need to use a text box with white text so it can be seen on the underlying color. The problem comes when you print in black and white. The default in PowerPoint is to convert all text to black, so your white text becomes black when printed. This makes it hard to see on a dark gray background.

One trick is to make the fill color and outline color of the text box white with 100% transparency. It doesn’t show on the slide, but it keeps the text white when printed in black and white.

4) Test how the printout will look

When you have made the changes above, you should test how the slide will look when printed in grayscale. You don’t have to actually print the slides in order to know what they will look like. On the View ribbon, click the Grayscale button and the view will change to show you what the slide will look like when printed.

You can then see if the changes you have made will work. If there are some areas that are still not clear enough, make some additional changes after you switch the display back to color mode.

When you apply these techniques, here’s what the previous slide would look like in color and in grayscale:

Example 2

Instead of the default colors, I have used a lighter and darker shade of blue for the color graph. You can pick other colors if you like, but make sure that one is a lighter shade and one is a darker shade. The grayscale printout now is much better and the two columns are easy to distinguish from each other.

When you have to present with black and white printouts, use the tips in this article to make your printouts easy for the audience to understand.

About the Author:

Dave Paradi runs the Think Outside the Slide website, is a consultant on high-stakes presentations, the author of seven books and a PowerPoint Most Valuable Professional (MVP.) For more information, visit


PowerPoint or Keynote: What Works Better for the iPad?

The powerhouses of presentation software, Microsoft and Apple, both have offerings for the iPad, making on-the-go creation easier than ever. But which interface is the best choice for you? Is one better than the other? Ethos3 is on the case.

PowerPoint Pros and Cons

Technically, PowerPoint “costs nothing,” although that “nothing” is defined by the yearly subscription to Office 365, which begins at $99.99 in the iTunes store. If you’re just hoping for presentation software, there is no way to un-bundle it from Word and Excel. Overall, the software is a reduced version of the desktop version.

For example, you can’t crop pictures, there are no templates (although they have 20 themes), no outline view, no compatibility with a Cloud network, and the list goes on. However, the interface is simple to use and intuitive, and in spite of its Microsoft heritage, it easily implements presentations from different locations. Since it is a part of a larger software, you may consider PowerPoint only if you wish you use other Office programs.

Pros: Easy interface, no hassle opening documents, beautiful themes, and comes bundled with other desirable Office programs.

Cons: Reduced features from the desktop version, no audio or video, no support for cloud storage, and is priced annually.

Keynote Pros and Cons

Priced at a massively reasonable $9.99 in the Apple store, Keynote for iPad was built to be intuitive and simple to use. It also incorporates features like animations, transitions, charts, tables, and graphs. You can even add a background track to your presentation, on top of the existing slick-looking templates that come with the program.

iCloud also makes it easy to share documents, although many reviews have reported trouble with opening native Keynote files. Also, if you want to import a chart from another iWork Office Suite program, you’ll have to buy that individual app for your iPad.

Pros: Intuitive features, includes audio, video, and animation, works with the iCloud, many themes, inexpensive, built for iPad.

Cons: Trouble opening native Keynote documents, importing documents can take a while, other iWork programs need to be purchased for use with Keynote, can’t display timeline for animations, can’t be run on Microsoft.

So…Which One?

Keynote for iPad functions nearly identically as Keynote for the regular desktop, whereas PowerPoint has seen a reduction in features, and most reviewers have taken notice.

Keynote is also known for ease of use, more so than the Office 365 suite; this is amplified by the fact that the App was developed by the device makers. Frankly, for the value and the simplicity of the interface, we recommend Keynote for iPad.

About the Author:

Scott Schwertly is the CEO and founder of Ethos3, a leading presentation design and training company.


Pin It on Pinterest