6 Jul 2015

6 Tips to design better slides [Before and after examples]

In my last post I shared experienced investor Vinod Khosla's tips for startup funding. In this post I will share 6 tips which Vinod Khosla has shared in the same talk. These tips are meant for startups (investor presentations) but can be used by every presenter. These are general presentation tips to help you design a better slide.

#1 Reduce clutter
This is a pretty common tip. We all know this, but still we cannot seem to follow this. After you have designed your slide, go back and cut down lots of words. If you are going to present the deck (slides) in person, then you do not need so much text on the slide. One way you can cut down stuff from your slide is by asking "do I really need this?" to everything (and every word) you have put on the slide.

Here is a before and after slide from his talk. The original slide has way too many images, creating clutter.

#2 Five second rule
Khosla talks about the 'five second rule'. If I put up a slide and then remove it after 5 seconds, what will my audience notice? Given this background, our main message has to be in the title of the slide. Write the crux of the slide in the title itself because every member in the audience will first read the title. Our job is to make the life of our audience easier. They need to get the main message quickly and clearly. Read more about this here.

Here is an example of a slide which follows this rule. The one on the left is the original and the one on the right is better.

Within 5 seconds the audience will get the key message (96% lower cost).

#3 Simple fonts
Stylish fonts do not make a presentation beautiful. Stay away from uncommon fonts. Choose simple fonts (Arial, Helvetica) which are very quick to read. There are better things to focus on in life than wasting time over choosing fonts.

#4 One key message
Every slide must have one key message, not two. Everything you put on the slide (charts, text, image) has to support that key message. And where do we put this key message? - right up in the title.

Here is an example from his talk where he showcases how a slide was modified. The slide to the left is the original. The one on the right has just one image (which was there in the original). Plus the title has been modified. 'Glucose Monitors Today' says nothing to the audience. 'No More Finger Sticks' speaks a lot (and that's the key message here).

Here is another superb example. The slide on the left talks about the diabetes problem in the world. What do I as an investor have to do with that? Tell me clearly. The slide on the right talks about the growing problem. It is a big problem and growing fast too. That's what the investor wants to hear; a big and growing market.

#5 Data consistency
The market size on Slide 4 has to be the same as the size on Slide 24. The projected volumes in year 3 have to be the same across. Accept it that all of us make slides in the eleventh hour. Hence we are prone to such mistakes. The slides are made even when the number crunching is still not over. What do you do then? You review your deck and try to find fault with your data. Look for inconsistency. Check every piece of data and remove any inconsistency whatsoever. Else you lose trust.

#6 Avoid superlatives
While making a presentation we use clich├ęs and useless superlatives (read more here) like state-of-the-art product, world class product and best in class team. Which presenter has ever claimed that his/her team is not best in class? Your audience can see through this BS and you need to stop it. Khosla encourages us to show, not tell. Show me how your product is world class and your team best in class.

Want to read more slide design tips, click here. Download my e-book on design tips by clicking here.

29 Jun 2015

How to pitch to investors? Pitch the way Venture Capitalists think

Vinod Khosla, the founder of Khosla Ventures is a seasoned investor and entrepreneur. He has seen hundreds of startup pitches and in this 25 minute video he has shared his wisdom. What mistakes startups make while pitching for seed funding (or early stage funding) and what is the best way to present to investors. I have put together some key takeaways from his valuable talk.

Pitch the way Venture Capitalists think

What is your goal?
The most important goal of your presentation is to engineer an email. Let me explain. Once the presentation is over, the investor will shoot across an email to his partners. The investor (your audience) will write a few sentences to his peers (colleagues at the investment firm). What will the investor write? Your aim is to write the email for him. Plant some key messages during your presentation. What is the company about? Why it is an exciting business? The words and tone of his email determine your fate.

Less is more
The investor presentation is not a place to share everything. You do not need to share 10 reasons why they should invest in you. You do not need to take them through everything. Choose overview over details. If they need details, they will ask and then you can share the same. Take them through the overall story first. Share the most important story which fascinates the investor. 

Reason to invest and NOT invest
There are two major emotions at play in the minds of the investor; fear and greed. Fear that this might be a risky investment and greed that it could be a jackpot for the investor. Address both of them. Give 3-5 reasons to invest and also share the risks facing the business. Then address these risks. Show that you have thought through and know how to minimize the risks of running this business.

Tell me a story
Investor presentation cannot be a boring experience. You have to take care of the emotions of the investor. You have to tell a story with words, pictures and numbers. Do not bore them. They too are human.

How to develop your story? What will you talk about?
Step - 1 Write down all the reasons why the investor should invest in you. Make a really long list. Then choose 3 to 5 key ones. That's it. The investor cannot remember more than 3-5 reasons.

Step - 2 Write down all the reasons why the investor should not invest in you. This is what is going on in his mind at the time of your presentation. Now pick up the top 3 reasons and address them in your presentation. This will show that you have thought through and you have a strategy to minimize the risk facing your business.

Step - 3 Talk about the team, financials (revenue, cash flow, capex, etc.) Do not go beyond 25 slides.

Step - 4 Write down all the questions you think will arise during your presentation. Prepare an answer for each of these and keep them as your backup slides. Show it to them when they ask the question. This will again prove you are a person who is prepared and well organized.

State the problem clearly
Khosla says 80% of the presentations do not make the problem clear till they are about 15 minutes into the presentation. Say this right at the start. Do not make a statement. Tell me the problem you are really solving.

How does a VC decide?
Do you solve a real problem?
What are the reasons to invest?
What are the risks and how will they mitigate the risk?
How good is the team?
How dangerous are the cash flows?

Other tips

  • Credibility is important. After the presentation, the investor and his team will discuss "whether they can trust you?". Ensure you do not hide anything from them.
  • Use a bottoms up approach to market sizing. That is more credible. Saying that as per Gartner the XYZ market is $2 billion is not good enough.
  • The investor does not care about your names. What matters is what makes this team qualify for this job? How will this team mitigate the risks of business.

Watch his talk by clicking here. Take care  of these points when you prepare your pitch presentation. In my next post, I will share the slide design tips which Vinod Khosla has shared in this talk.

25 Jun 2015

How to present your startup at a conference? Lessons from Liquidity

As a founder of a young startup, you will be attending startup meets and conferences. There is Launch Festival and TechCrunch Disrupt. There is TechSparks and Startups Unpluggd. There are many such events a founder goes to and presents his or her idea.

If you have 5 minutes to talk about your startup idea, how will you do that?
In this post, we will look at what Liquidity did at TechCrunch Disrupt.

The startup Liquidity won the TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2015. Its founder Victor Hwang gave a very energetic pitch at the event. I have presented the crux of the entire pitch below so you need not watch the presentation (though I highly recommend you do watch it here).The entire presentation was just 6 minutes 25 seconds. Crisp, clear and awesome!

Step-1 Introduce the problem
10,000 people will die today because of these micro-organisms (shows the villain; a bacteria). 1 billion people do not get safe drinking water because of them. This statement makes you care and also tells you how big the opportunity is.

Step-2 Why is it so hard to get safe drinking water?
It is because the purity standard is 99.9999%. Even a very small amount of bacteria can make the water unfit. Even if you make the water clear, you don't know if it is pure. It is the invisible stuff that kills you.

Step-3 Existing solution
The world until now has been making a trade-off. Some products are ineffective (do not kill all bacteria) and some work but are really hard to use (inconvenient). This is a trade-off and no trade-off is the optimal solution.

Step-4 Proposed solution
Liquidity eliminates the trade-off and creates a state-of-the art product. It is effective AND convenient. No chemicals, no electricity and no pumping needed. We can change the world!

Step-5 Demo
A good demo shows how convenient Naked Filter really is!

Step-6 How does it work?
Here he explains in simple terms how the nano fibre membrane works.
Shows us visually how bacteria gets stuck in the membrane as water passes by.

Step-7 Dream team
The product is a result of scientists, engineers and business people (a dream team working on it). There is 15 years of R&D by Stony Brook University. Concerns about credibility and expertise are taken care of.

Step-8 Our products and roll out
What products are we selling? Personal water bottles, household products and industrial products. Roll out starting from the US and Europe. Next we enter the emerging markets. Eventually reach a billion people all over the world.

Step-9 Product is ready and can be ordered right now!
Order now and you will get it in 3 months.

The presentation went like this: The problem --> Why it is such a big problem? --> What is the existing solution --> What is our proposed solution? --> Demo --> The science behind the product. How it works? --> The team --> The product portfolio and roll out plan --> Order now!

The framework is simple and we all know about it. Google on how startups should present and you will see a similar framework almost on every site. But the question is, how should it be followed to make an impact. Victor Hwang makes the impact and that's why we should learn from him.

Simple Slide Design
If you notice the slides, they have been designed really well. Large images with hardly any text. A complete slide with few words on them. The slides compliment the speaker. They are not meant to overpower him.

If you are interested in reading about how to pitch your startups to investors, click here.

19 Jun 2015

9 Presentation Tips for Startups: What investors really want from your presentation?

Recently I interacted with a few investors who work at large venture capital firms in India. I talked to them at length about what they really want in a startup presentation and what is usually missing from most. If you are preparing your funding pitch, here are 9 killer tips for you.

1. Every investor sees many presentations every week. He really has no time to go through every slide properly. You need to get the investor excited about something within the first 5-10 minutes of your presentation. Figure out what is the one thing about your business that will excite the investor. Put it up right at the start.

2. You should have a summary slide at the start. Share basic information like the industry you are in, your uniqueness, traction, funding you need, etc. It helps them put you into a mental box quickly. They want an overall picture before your movie starts.

3. You must show that your key metric will double-triple in a few years. All that the investor needs to see is that his money will grow exponentially. They do not want to invest in companies which will clock 20% growth year on year. Sorry.

4. Team slide is the most crucial. Investors are asking themselves: Will this team deliver? Most presentations have names of the founders, their designation, qualification and work experience. That says nothing about the ability of the team to work together and deliver the numbers you are promising.

5. Never claim your startup does not have competition. Show them who is your competition at a macro level and a micro level. At the micro level you might be alone but never at the macro level. "If a company has no competition, I would rather not invest in it" said one investor.

6. Highlight the real difference (USP) between you and your competition. Spend time here and crack this part. Do not write the obvious differences, instead focus on the real and significant difference.

7. Give utilization of funds. Interestingly all presentations ask for funds but many of them do not show the utilization of the same. Your business plan does assume you will get the funding. So you already have this information. All you need to do is to present it properly.

8. All investors want to looking at a huge market opportunity. Show them the market opportunity and follow a bottom up approach to arrive at your billion dollar figure. Your market opportunity is $1 billion as per Gartner. Well this number makes less sense for an investor. How about doing it the hard way and with a bit more detailing? Makes it more credible.

9. What if competition copies your USP (unique selling proposition)? Show them that you have thought about it and how do you plan to stay ahead of the competition.

16 Jun 2015

Why Startups Succeed? [Beautiful slides inside]

We are in the midst of a startup revolution. Every day scores of new startups come up across the world but most of them fail and only a fraction find success. In this TED talk Bill Gross tells us why he thinks startups succeed. Which factors are more crucial and which are less.

If you work in a startup you must watch this well presented talk of 6 minutes. If you don't, watch this talk to see how clean the slides look and how well he uses PowerPoint. I will show you some of his slides below.

When it comes to such slides, I follow the same style to Bill. That's why his presentation appealed to me. Have a look at his slides here:

Here is how the same slide looks to someone sitting in the audience. Looks quite nice I say. Also note that each image (also known as an icon) comes one after the other as he speaks. All the icons do not come at the same time, else the audience will jump and read ahead.

Here are two more slides from Bill. In this one, he shows us a simple bar chart in a very new manner. This is not your regular chart. Looks far cleaner and better.

The moral of the story is - try using icons in your next presentation. You can try www.iconfinder.com. It's a great site.

28 May 2015

Protect my slides. Make my PowerPoint file non-editable

I am running a presentation design firm and hence I get to make various kinds of presentations for my clients across the world. Recently a client for whom I am making an investor pitch deck posed this question. He runs a startup in Silicon Valley.

SP: "I do not want my audience to take my slides and use them. They should not be able to edit my slides at all. How do I do this?"

Well, the answer turned out to be quite simple.

Go to File --> Save As --> Tools (look to the left of Save) --> General Options --> Enter a password to modify.

When people open the slides, they have 2 choices. View the deck 'Read Only' or enter the password. If they choose Read Only, they will not be able to make any changes to the deck. They can only view it.

20 Apr 2015

Turn your Android Phone into a Presentation Remote

Microsoft has come up with a super app for Android users. It is called Microsoft Office Remote. With this app on your phone, you can change slides while freely roaming around the room. The app uses Bluetooth technology to connect with your laptop and converts your phone into a presenter remote.

Visit the Google Play Store and install the app. Then follow the instructions. You will need to install the software on your laptop / PC as well. All the directions are there in your app. Its simple and take just a few minutes.

Once you have the app on the phone and the software on the PC (and Bluetooth connection is established), you can open the desired PowerPoint file. On the top, near other Tabs will be a new add-in called OFFICE REMOTE. Click and choose TURN ON.

Now go to the app and choose the PowerPoint file. Start presenting.

I used the features and everything seems to be working fine.

The app lets you:
  • Change slides (go back and forth)
  • See the upcoming slides
  • Read your speaker notes
  • See the time that has gone by 

There is also a hidden laser pointer feature. Start using this app and start presenting with more ease.

4 Apr 2015

Embed your fonts before emailing your deck

Your slide deck is ready. You have spent hours, if not days to make it. Now is the time to shoot if off. But wait...

If you have used any special or uncommon fonts in your presentation, remember to embed them within the PowerPoint file.

The special fonts used by you will most likely be absent on the computer of the person receiving the deck. What happens when he/she opens your presentation?

The computer will replace your special font with whatever is available. The result - all the layouts will go haywire. The look is gone. It will actually ruin the look and formatting completely.

How to embed fonts in MS PowerPoint 2013? (2010 and earlier versions are similar)
Go to file -> Options -> Under Save -> Embed fonts in file -> Embed all characters

Now the computer which receives your file can display the special fonts. Good luck!