You’re listening to the White Rabbit conversations on the art of presenting in a rather noisy world. Your hosts are Matt Krause and Alper Rozanes. Matt helps leaders of international companies speak, write, and present with confidence. Alper is an author, communications trainer, and a startup investor with a diverse portfolio of companies in Barcelona. If you like this podcast, please share it with your friends and colleagues. Now on to Matt and Alper for today’s conversation.
Alper, a couple weeks ago, we went into how a professional clean slides, and you told us how when someone sends you a deck, what are the first few steps that you go about cleaning that deck and turning that deck into something nice and presentable? And that got me to thinking, how does Matt go about cleaning a deck? Because Matt cleans decks all the time. Well, I’m glad that it got you to thinking too. It got me to thinking because, like, okay, well, I clean decks all the time, but I go about it completely different. And it’s a reflection of the fact that my background is not in visual design, and I don’t have much of an eye for visual design. I know an attractive visual design when I see it, but I tend to not be able to create it very well. And so I can’t really rely on that skill. But there is one skill that I can rely on very dependably, and that is that I’m very strict with time budgets. If, for example, let’s use for this cleaning example, let’s use a company introduction, which a company introduction, I’ve never seen a company introduction…
I’ve never seen one that was not boring. They’re all boring. So even the people who are giving them are bored. God knows what the customer is thinking. Okay, so if you start out with the company introduction, let’s get back to the budget for a second. The time budget for a second. If you start out with a company introduction that is, say, ten minutes or 15 minutes or 20 minutes, Matt’s time budget, his time target is going to be about half of that. So if your original time budget is ten minutes, Matt’s target is going to be five minutes. He’s going to try to do that introduction in five minutes, and he’s not going to do anything. And by the way, that gives people extra time to talk to their customers. So there’s a huge benefit from spending less time introducing your company and freeing up some time to just sit there and talk to your customer about what they need. Customers love that. So here’s how we go about that. Here’s how we go about reaching that target. We go through slide by slide, and I don’t change any of the slides.
If there’s ten slides at the beginning, there are probably going to be ten slides at the end. And I’m not going to change any of the text. I’ll almost never change any of the images. So there will be almost no image changes to the slides at all. How we go about instead reaching that tight budget, that time budget is that we go through slide by slide and we’ll pick out the one or two things that my client, the one who’s doing the presenting things, are really important. These are the one or two most important points on this slide. These are the things that have to get mentioned on this slide. And then maybe there will be usually a second or third sentence and that second or third sentence will be usually tying that slide into how it’s relevant to the customer. For example, if a slide is, let’s say a slide is about the awards that you’ve won, and one of the awards that you’re most proud of is that you won an award for your international network or something, what might be relevant to the customer that you’re presenting to is your ability to reach out to that network.
If they have a problem, the customer has a problem that hasn’t been solved in their country and they need you to reach out to your network to find a solution from another country, maybe in a completely different continent, somebody has solved that problem before and you have the network to reach out to that customer and find out how they did it. So that’ll be the third sentence. And so what you’ll end up with is maybe just three or four sentences per slide. And almost always when you are that strict with the budget and that focused on what is really important about this slide, almost always when you combine that process for all the slides, you’ll end up with a presentation that’s half the time of the original. And I mentioned images briefly and there’s one image that I’ll keep an eye out for, or one kind of image in particular. Because during this process it’s really important because it’s really important to keep the customers focus on the client or on the person who is speaking, because you’re not changing the slides. If the client, if the attention comes off of the speaker and goes on to the slide, there might be a problem because the slides might be full of text or the slides might be incredibly ugly.
So it’s really important, it becomes extremely important to keep the focus on the speaker. And one thing that’s almost guaranteed to pull the potential customer or the audience, one thing that’s almost completely guaranteed to pull the audience’s eyes off of the speaker is a slide that has human faces on it. Because, I’m not sure why, but for some reason the human eye or the human brain is just hardwired. Whenever it sees pictures of faces, it looks at them. It can’t help. No matter how hard your customers focus on you, if they see faces on that slide, they’re going to look away from you, they’re going to look at that slide. It’s really important to keep that from happening. And one thing that often happens on these company introduction slides or these company introductions is that there will be what I call a Happy Faces slide or a Happy People slide. And it’s the slide where it’s usually multiracial and multisexual. There’s a man and there’s a woman, or there are a couple of men and a couple of women and somebody’s always wearing a hard hat and they’re holding blueprints and then somebody has a pen and they’re all smiling and smiling.
All happy, they’re so cheerful.
So I call this the happy people slide. And the point that you’re trying to say is something about how great you are or how many awards you have or how happy people are to work at your company or whatever, we’ll find something that is good for you to say, but that slide with those human faces is going to draw your customers eyes away. And so that image is going to need to be removed or it’s going to need to be replaced or some other kind of image is going to need to be used. I don’t know. We’ll find a solution that works for each client. But the point is to get rid of that Happy Faces slide or to turn that Happy Faces slide into something else.
An actual photo of company employees. Would you still advise to remove that.
If they’re looking at the camera? Usually, almost always if they’re not looking at the camera, like if it’s a photo that was taken by somebody standing in the corner and they were just taking a picture of the office and the picture has a bunch of people sitting at their desks and they’re all staring at their computers, then it’s probably fine. But if they’re all looking at the camera, then the customer’s eyes or the audience’s eyes are going to look at the slide. So it depends on that. With this process, by focusing, what are the three or four sentences, most four sentences per slide that you get to say? And just by iterating that process through each slide, you’re usually able to easily cut out half of the time. In fact, just recently I was working on a customer’s introduction and the company introduction was ranging to 18 minutes. It was incredibly long and we brought it down with this process, we brought it down to less than six. So we went from 18 minutes to less than six. So we freed up twelve minutes because the customer said I talked to the customer, I said, well, what do you think about this introduction?
And the customer said, my client said to me, even I get bored of having to give this presentation. I would love to have some extra time just to talk to my customer about their needs. So I said, well, let’s take this 18 minutes company introduction that is boring you and probably boring your customer to tears. And let’s cut it way down. When you iterate that process through each slide, you’re usually easily able to cut the presentation in half or even less. So anyway, that’s how we do it.
You’re in charge of how long the presentation is going to take. If you want more time to ask questions, well, create more time or just make it possible that you have the time. I think it’s excellent advice.
What I’ve found is that the customer is just my client is just looking for an excuse because my client knows, I mean, they want to do this. They want to cut the introduction down. They want to have some extra time to talk to their customer. So it’s not really a big push to get them to make that change. It just takes a little outside third party push and a demonstration of how it can be done, and then they’re ready to go along with it, no problem. So that’s what I found. I don’t get a whole lot of pushback when the conversation starts with, why are you wanting to do this?
I like that idea.
By the way, we can maybe do a separate episode on breaking the corporate barriers, especially when it comes to presentations. That’s one of my favorite topics.
I’m sure it is.
We are running out of time. But I have one question to ask you, which I think is crucial.
Because you talked about a radical change from 18 minutes to six minutes. It’s like more than 60%. How do you determine the hierarchy for elimination? How do you determine what stays and what goes?
By asking my client, my client is the presenter. By asking my client, because my client knows their company a whole lot better than I do. They know why the slide is there a whole lot better than I do. So if I try to guess, probably I’ll have a high chance of being right. But it’s only about 70%, maybe 80 on a good day. But my customer pretty much always is going to know what is the most important thing about this slide. Usually, from my experience, if you try to broach the subject of, hey, we need to do some drastic cutting, tell me what’s most important, what should we keep? If you try to broach that on the very first meeting, you won’t have enough trust built with the customer to do it. So you have to put in some time with the customer. Maybe you’re working on something else, but you use that something else just as a way to build some time with the customer, to build a little trust with the customer. So when you do broach the subject of, hey, let’s do some drastic cutting here, they have enough trust in you to do it, and it’s not like you’re leading them down a path that they don’t want to go in.
You get them to say, that they want to go down this path. So your positioning is basically well, I’m just going to help you, show you how to get there. They’re already saying, hey, I want to go down this path. I want to go in this direction. You’re just kind of showing them or you’re just kind of saying, hey, let me show you. I’ve done this before. Let me show you how it’s done. You’re not broaching a new subject with them.
I like that.
Otherwise, it will be this new guy who is proposing to slaughter 70% of the presentation without giving just cause.
Yeah, that often doesn’t go over very well.
I like that.
I can imagine that.
So, yeah, we’re about out of time today. In a future episode, we need to go into the subject that you mentioned how to breach the corporate barrier.
You’re going to hear me speak.
Oh, I’m sure.
You’re going to hear me talk, man.
I’m sure that we will. All right, so thank you very much, Alper. I’ll talk to you later.
Thank you for listening to The White Rabbit with Matt Krause and Alper Rozanes. You can subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, iTunes or through your favorite feed.