Presenting numbers

Financial presentations will fail to engage and convince if you make “the numbers” the star of the show – they should be the supporting actor.

This and more advice on how to nail your next financial presentation in this insightful article from Mandel Communications.

The pitch deck is perhaps the most important powerpoint document you’ll ever create. Do you know how to make a pitch deck that is clear, concise, and impossible to forget? Learn from the pros at Duarte, Inc.

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There is nothing like a killer presentation when it comes to successful fund-raising for your startup. According to seasoned venture capitalist Bill Gurley, there are at least 6 arguments behind this hard truth. My favorite is number 3: numeracy.

Startups are businesses, and businesses run on numbers. The one thing your presentation should not be is numberless. It’s nearly impossible to convey complex numerical arguments with only words. Charts, graphs, and tables are orders of magnitude more efficient at this task.

Have you noticed? The most successful entrepreneurs are all intensely focused on the numbers.

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Pitching your business to VCs is much harder if you are a woman. A growing body of evidence shows that female entrepreneurs in all lines of business receive significantly less funding than their male counterparts (1, 2, 3). A recent article (4) discusses where the bias may start and what you can do about it.

Some key insights from the study:

  • VCs tended to ask women questions about the potential for losses – men about the potential for gains. Interestingly, both men and women who evaluate startups appeared to display the same bias in their questioning,
  • Most entrepreneurs responded in a manner that matched the type of questions they were asked, namely focusing on safety, responsibility, and security – as opposed to hopes, achievements, and ideals).
  • Responding in kind to these questions, female entrepreneurs penalized their start-ups by remaining in the realm of losses.

The good news: you can learn to recognize this pattern and frame your responses to benefit your startup.

“When it comes to venture funding, entrepreneurs need to convince prospective investors of their startups’ “home run” potential — it’s not enough to simply demonstrate that they’re unlikely to lose investors’ money.”

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  1. Malin Malmstrom, Jeaneth Johansson, Joakim Wincent; HBR, May 17, 2017.
  2. Kimberly Weisul; INC. Magazine, November 2016.
  3. Katherine Hays; Knowledge@Wharton, May 2016.
  4. Dana Kanze, Laura Huang, Mark A. Conley, E. Tory Higgins; HBR, June 27, 2017.

Thank you for teaching us the importance of facts and an open mind. Your talent for presenting information will be sorely missed.

Have you noticed? Rarely do we have a meeting without slides these days. As soon as we have an idea, we rush to create a lengthy PowerPoint about it. We use slides as a crutch for our story, stuffing them with all sorts of information we might want to use to make our point. As a result, business conversations turn into lengthy sales pitches. Have our organizations lost the ability to discuss ideas without slides?

Don’t get me wrong, I love making PowerPoint presentations for my clients and I love attending an inspiring presentation accompanied by visually arresting slides. And it’s not the fault of the software, either. Keynote or Prezi would not do a better job than PowerPoint. The problem is how we tend to use presentation software, which gets in the way of communicating ideas.

Focus on sharpening and sharing your idea, not on making slides about it. We, your audience, will love you for that.

Read more on how to communicate ideas that will spread.

Having been a TED Curator for over 15 years, Chris Anderson must know a thing or two about what makes a great talk. Under his supervision, TED has irrevocably changed our perception of presentations. There is currently a vast library of 2000+ talks available online, all of which have been viewed more than 2.5 billion times, with an increase of 2 million views per day.

Sharing TED’s secret
Mr. Anderson recently posted a special video titled “How to give a great TED talk”. It is the first talk to be filmed in a studio rather than being recorded onstage at a live TED event. In the video, Chris Anderson shares the secret recipe, the magic ingredient, the one thing that all great TED talks have in common. And it’s this:

It’s about an idea
Your number one task as a speaker is to transmit an extraordinary gift into your listeners’ minds, a beautiful object that we call an idea. Ideas are able to permanently change how we think about the world, shaping our actions, current and future. Ideas are the most powerful force shaping human culture.

Make it spread
But here’s the thing: you need to communicate your ideas properly if you want them to spread. Mr. Anderson has 4 powerful pieces of advice for us. Unsurprisingly, they apply as much to a TED talk as to your next business presentation, or any presentation for that matter:

  1. Limit your talk to just one major idea. It sounds intuitive, but reality shows that this is the most difficult step. What is the one idea you want to share? Are you willing to cut all the other good stuff that doesn’t belong to this idea?
  2. Give your audience a reason to care. With so many ideas out there, why should people listen to yours? Curiosity is key here, so stir your audience’s interest. Use intriguing, provocative questions to indicate why something doesn’t make sense and needs explaining. Reveal a disconnection in someone’s worldview.
  3. Build your idea out of concepts familiar to your public. Speak the audience’s language. Use concepts that your listeners already understand. Rely on metaphors to guide them gently into unknown territory.
  4. Make your idea worth sharing. Who does your idea really benefit? If the idea only serves you or your organization, then it’s probably not worth sharing. The audience will see right through you. But if you believe that the idea has the potential to brighten up someone else’s day, change someone else’s perspective for the better, or inspire someone to do something differently, then you have the core ingredient to a truly great talk, one that can be a gift to them and to all of us.



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We often think of body language as the result of our attitude or how we feel. This is true, but psychologists have also shown that the reverse is true: changing your body language changes your attitude.

Here are 5 major changes induced by positive body language that will help you in your next keynote presentation:

  1. It increases testosterone. Testosterone improves your confidence and causes other people to see you as more trustworthy and positive.
  2. It decreases cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that impedes performance.
  3. It creates a powerful combination. A decrease in cortisol and an increase in testosterone creates the confidence and clarity of mind that are ideal for dealing with demanding situations like a presentation in front of a large audience.
  4. It makes you more likeable. Body language is a huge factor in how you’re perceived and can be more important than your tone of voice or even what you say. Learning to use positive body language will make people like you and trust you more.
  5. It conveys competence. Perception of competence has a strong foundation in body language.

Read more on body language on the blog of Dr. Travis Bradberry, coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Image @Steve Wilson

Whether we like it or not, the PowerPoint slide has become the expected channel of business communication. Projected, printed and emailed, millions of slides are created every day to illustrate and discuss all aspects of business, including strategy.

We don’t really know how effective this slide-centric approach is, but study after study has shown that employees at all of levels of the organisation have trouble recalling the company strategy (1, 2). This includes also the middle managers who are supposed to cascade down and execute (3). Unsurprisingly, even the most brilliant strategies appear to fail at implementation (4).

Can we improve the impact of our strategy presentations? A recent publication studied the effectivity of different ways to present strategy on slide in a realistic and controlled business setting. Rather than relying on anecdotical evidence, the researchers applied rigorous statistical analysis to interpret the results. You’ll love what they found.

The experiment
Three groups of mid-senior managers were exposed to a business strategy presentation, the only variable being the type of slides. The researchers focused on three common approaches to present strategy on sides, namely bullet-point lists, roadmaps and visual metaphors.

Bullet points are often the visualisation of choice in corporate strategy presentations. They are easy to make and allow for information to be organised in smaller chunks. Probably the biggest limitation of bullet points is that they are not suitable to convey even the most simple connection within the information, beyond a hierarchical one. Additionally, it’s very tempting to decrease the font size to fit large amounts of text.

Strategy roadmaps, also called temporal diagrams, are another business presentation favourite. In its simplest form, think of a number of milestones placed on a timeline. A temporal diagram has the advantage of simplifying the information and delivering it in chronological order. This instantly reveals causal and temporal relationships, which would otherwise require a lengthy end easily forgotten explanation.

Visual metaphors are an even more sophisticated way of conveying complex information. By associating an unfamiliar idea with one that is commonplace, we can spark better understanding of complex ideas. The image of a brick wall can represent a very difficult challenge the organisation has to overcome. A rowing team on a boat the need for internal alignment and cooperation. The most effective metaphors are those that instantly ring true with your audience, without sounding cliche.

The results
The analysis of the data collected revealed that bullet points are by far the worst visualisation in terms of attention of the audience, information retention and agreement with the strategy. Participants exposed to bullet points reported losing focus during the presentation, failed to recall parts of the strategy, and found the strategy less consistent and aligned.

Importantly, the different visuals affected how the presenter was perceived by the audience. The presenter armed with bullet points was rated less prepared, less committed, and less credible than the presenters who used either the road map or a visual metaphor. This indicates that perception of the visuals is a very good and strong predictor of the perception of the presenter.

These results confirm what we probably all know deep inside, but somehow forget to implement the moment we open PowerPoint: time to ditch the bullets for good.

Kaplan, R and Norton, D (2005). The Office of strategy management. Harvard Business Review, 83(10), 72-80.

Collis, JD and Rukstad, MG (2008). Can You Say What Your Strategy Is? Harvard Business Review, 82(9), 83-90. 5.

Schaap, JI (2006). Toward Strategy Implementation Success: An Empirical Study of the Role of Senior-Level Leaders in the Nevada Gaming Industry. UNLV Gaming Research & Review Journal, 10(2).

Kaplan, R and Norton, D (2008). The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage. Harvard Business Press.






Ads Worth Spreading 

You just watched my favorite ad out of the 10 winners of the Ads Worth Spreading challenge, announced by TED last week. I love this story because it makes me think of the lengths I’d go to for the people who are most important to me. And how important it is to have friends that will be there for us when we need them. The guys at Guinness beautifully managed to align their brand with these universal feelings of loyalty, sacrifice and dedication.

Memorable presentations and great commercials have something in common: they tell a story so good we want to share it. Stories speak to us on an emotional, even primal level. Visuals amplify these emotional responses by accessing our child mind, the part of us that appreciates the Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” meme but also the power of myth and fairy tales.

“It’s all the stuff that makes the world go around: human moments, human myths, transcending our limits, transcending our prejudices, rediscovering ourselves, laughing at ourselves, and believing in our dreams” says Eliza Esquivel, a two-time Ads Worth Spreading judge and the vice president of global brand strategy at Mondelez International.

Give yourself a treat and watch the 10 winners. Which of these ads managed to touch you?

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