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Nobody ever said…

May 29, 2011

There are a few things I’ve never heard anybody say as they emerge from a conference session:

  • I wish that talk went for longer
  • I would have liked to see more PowerPoint slides
  • If only there had been more words on each slide

I actually said that to a client last week (in the same session that inspired my last post).

Following that, however, I attended the Australasian Talent Conference and saw my theories in action.

One of the speakers was as a ‘serial entrepreneur’; he lives in Palo Alto and hangs out with other Silicon Valley luminaries. Which suggests to me that Jason Kerr, founder of, has done a few investor presentations in his time.

These are presentations to venture capitalists, where you try to convince them to drop a cool few million into your start-up. Such presentations require you to inspire and excite your audience, but still demonstrate your good business and financial sense. Tricky stuff. And I’d say Jason Kerr gets it right.

What did he do at the ATC?

  • Based each slide on one quality image, with lots of colour and movement.
  • Used just three words on each slide, e.g. ‘real, relevant, reciprocal’.
  • Included some relevant graphs, but didn’t get bogged down in their detail.
  • Used a lapel microphone, so he wasn’t tied to the lectern.
  • Knew his content inside out and spoke about it passionately.
Of course there were other great speakers there, but Jason stood out for me. He wasn’t American either – he’s a Kiwi – so he didn’t rely on the natural showmanship the U.S. seems to breed. He just had an affinity for this topic, experience in presenting and a good vibe. (I’d hazard a guess he’s had some good advisers over the years as well.)
If you’re presenting to anyone – whether it’s your uni class or company board – the basics remain the same.
  • Know your content. It always shows if you don’t.
  • Prepare properly. Even if you have a standard presentation, it needs to be tweaked for every occasion, to cater to time, audience and purpose.
  • Have the details in your head. Not on your slides. Our brains can only cope with so much information at once.
  • Fake it ’til you make it. If you’re not a natural presenter, get help from someone who is. Practise on your pets. Watch TED talks to see how it’s done well.
  • Use a stopwatch. Nothing alienates an audience more than keeping them from morning tea. Keep to your time, or even go short of it. And yes, that means practising the whole presentation and timing it.
And here is my cat Bronte, when she has to listen to a bad presentation.
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  1. Esther permalink

    Bronte looks hard to please. But then she was named after someone very clever!

  2. … and you can get a really slick little laser pointer (which may also double as a pen). Show don’t tell if it’s on a slide.

  3. If you think Bronte is a hard taskmaster, just imagine how tough Austen would be! I will have to work in a photo of her in a future post.

    And watch out that your laser pointer isn’t illegal, if you try and bring it in from overseas. Just sayin’.

  4. Excellent post Belinda and wholeheartedly agree with your comments about speakers at conferences and Jason’s presentation specifically. I would add another point

    ‘Don’t talk to the slides’

    The audience is out the front, not beside you or behind you. Maintain eye contact as much as possible.

    • Oh, you are so right! Especially when the speaker keeps turning away from the mike, to look at the slides.
      Thanks for the feedback, glad you liked it.

  5. LiL permalink

    Great information and advise! I will utilize them!

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