Half Engineer / Half Business Guy

Starting Your Business And Becoming An Entrepreneur

Tag: Presentation

Quick Tip: How To Get Quality Business Cards Made Quickly

FedEx Office – and many private printers – don’t have thick enough paper to make quality business cards. They’re too thin, bend, and look lame.

Also beware of many digital printers, who pixelize the crap out of your nicely designed card.

My recommendation, after big disappointments by FedEx Office and three other reasonably priced printers on their thickest card stock: overnightprints.com

  1. Spend the extra few $ for the Premium, not Value cards (Value cards are printed digitally, which means more pixelization, vs. Premium cards which are offset printed)
  2. Get gloss on the back of your card – it adds extra thickness to make your card feel like you didn’t print it out at home. However, don’t add gloss on the front, as it’s not typical and looks sort of strange
  3. Look up “overnight prints coupon codes” on Google – you can usually get 30-50% off. They don’t seem to try very hard to prevent this because…
  4. …Overnight Prints has cheap cards that turn out nice, but they destroy you on shipping. You can save a lot of money if you’re willing to wait a couple of weeks. Shipping can be $70 for one set of cards on really short notice, but $10 if you can wait

Building A Screencast (“Canned”) Demo Video

WHY WOULD YOU NEED A Screencast Demo?

There are many places you’ll want to live demo your product, but also a number of situations where a demo video will be preferable.

Examples include a walk-through video on your website’s front page for first-time users of your site, or an investor pitch before you’re comfortable running the working version of your product live.

At a very early stage, if you don’t have your web product built out enough to be viewed, but your product is novel, a screencast demo may be a good way to show an investor what your product “feels” like, rather than just giving them an idea. It’s much easier to fall in love with a product when you get to see it in “use”, rather than look at a screenshot or just have it described to you.

Just to make this demo, you’ll have to do at least some UI/UX design and testing, rather than just visual design. (In this post on UI/UX design, I describe various ways to mock up a site)

You Don’t Have To Hire Someone (wHEW!)

Fortunately, it’s actually pretty simple to do yourself with one of a range of tools built specifically for screencast creation. Paid tools I’ve been recommended include Screenflow, Camtasia, and iShowU.

However, I went cheap-o, and loved the results: Screencast-O-Matic. It’s not the most beautiful website I’ve ever seen – but $9 for a year with the Pro account did the trick. The best thing about it (aside from the name) is the simplicity of the interface. It’s got just a few features, and they are the exact ones you need.

Unfortunately, the microphone on your computer sucks, and it will be very obvious you used it when you crank your demo volume up for a room full of listeners and you’re bombarded with whirrs and buzzes. Get a decent mic for your demo (if you’ve got a solid headphone/mic combo this can work too).

What should you include?

In total, your demo should be between 1-2min. You should show:

  1. The Core Features that define your product. E.g. if it’s a travel search, show travel search, which is: Enter city, enter dates, hit “Search”, get results, see detail and buy
  2. The Wow Factor – Make sure this is a real “Wow”. Don’t go crazy here showing a bunch of mediocre details, which happens WAY too much. Pick a couple of killer moves. E.g. Show a truly amazing deal your site can find, or some feature that no one has yet.

You’re going to want to add detail to show everything that you can do – but that’s for the next meeting and the next demo. Don’t BORE them! VC Mark Suster puts it well:

“DO NOT make it a features & functions presentation. Unfortunately most people do…Lame. You’re showing them features, not value. Value is when you frame the demo in terms of why it solves somebody’s true pain point.”

The best way to get this down to the core points is to write a script. If you just try to walk through your site on the fly, it’s easy to show too many features, and not hit your points hard. Write a script, then reduce it down to the Core and the Wow Factor, and expect to record multiple times and refine.

My final tip here – talk while you’re recording the visual part of the demo to keep pace, but voice it over later. You’ll sound much better.

BE EXCITING

As Mark Suster mentions in his post, there are a TON of bad demos out there. Avoid walking through your product and checking boxes with a monotone “and then you do X, and then you do Y, etc.

Content:

The best way to build your demo is to build it like your pitch. Don’t just tell your listener what’s happening next, make them WANT that next step. Describe the problem, and help them feel the pain point your product solves. They should think “Damn, I really want to fix this…but how??

(If you’re giving an investor presentation, it should be woven in with your deck, where you present the problem, a description of your solution, then show your demo.)

In addition to the overall reason for your product’s being, you should be clear why you’re doing every little thing you’re doing in the demo. Don’t say “I’m doing X, now Y – instead say “I’m doing X, because I want to Z – and BOOM, there’s what I wanted”.

Style:

This is your product that solves this MASSIVE problem and is going to make A BILLION DOLLARS. Be excited about it for goodness sake! You don’t need to be a monster truck commercial, but avoid the monotone.

I also recommend using a bit of humor. Even the coolest product can have a boring part that needs to be shared. One that comes to mind is logging into your bank account with Mint.com – if I was investing, I’d want to see how you connect a bank account, but once I realized what was happening, I’d tune out as the presenter fills in some form. It’s a good time to crack a joke, make people happy and get the blood circulating.

MAKE IT BIG, FOCUSED, AND CLEAR

This is where the program you’re using really helps out. I have seen a ton of demos where people bring up their website on a huge screen, and absolutely nothing is legible to the audience. This makes for an incredibly boring demo, and people will quickly start checking email and ignoring you.

  • Big – Zoom in on the detail you’re talking about so the font is very readable, and the parts of your site that are unimportant for what you’re saying go away. However, you should leave some of “the rest” visible, so people still feel the context of your site
  • Focused – “Gray Out” the area around your focus area so people don’t get distracted by all the other fancy features still on-screen
  • Clear – Don’t show a bunch of power-user moves, keep it simple

As Always – Test And Refine

Just like your product, your pitch, and the rest of your deck, you should always test your demo with others and incorporate their input.

In particular, figure out which pieces of the demo don’t make sense to them, what they feel is missing, and – most importantly – watch their body language and figure out when they get bored, then make those sections better or remove them.

How To Make A Pitch Deck More Awesome

In a previous post, I detailed how to create the content for a killer pitch deck. In this post, I describe some of the more technical aspects of refining your deck, and how to make it sharper and harder-hitting.

USE THE “NO THINKING RULE”

Your audience should think about your deck as little as possible…they should only be thinking about your ideas.

Of course, you want them thinking about how much money they can make, or which portfolio company you could partner with. However, any time they’re thinking due to technical aspects of your presentation, it’s time they’re not listening to you, and making decisions internally that could hurt your credibility.

The “No Thinking Rule” Has 4 Parts:

  1. Tell a story
  2. Show, don’t say
  3. Keywords only
  4. Remove sticking points

Tell a story

Every slide should work together, and no one should ever have to think “why is this slide up?” You should be able to remove the slide content, say the title/main point of each slide in order, and be left with a cohesive, complete story.

After you’ve written each slide, make sure that the main point you thought about while creating your story is the obvious take-away, and hits quickly. If not, go back and refine.

Show, don’t say

Any time you can show something with a picture instead of words, do it. Examples include:

  1. Separate groups on a page visually – Who wants to read a 12-bullet laundry list?
  2. Use logos/icons to replace names/words – You’ll get your point across faster
  3. Use graphs to replace numbers – Numbers (especially relationships between numbers) are often easier to understand visually

Keywords only

You shouldn’t be writing prose, just include the important words. Instead of “Google’s specialty is spinning products out of large scale data aggregation and processing projects”, put a Google logo next to the words “Large Scale Data Aggregation”, and voice-over the rest.

Remove sticking points

Don’t distract your audience! You know when your computer freezes, and you get a “Not Responding” or a Beachball Of Death? It can happen to audience members too if you give them sticking points like these:

  1. “You’re wrong!” – If you write “Google sucks at search”, people will stop listening and start thinking of all the reasons you’re stupid
  2. “I have to do math?” – Only put numbers that directly relate to your point, or really simple, clear math. Don’t force your audience to make a mental leap
  3. “What is that?” – One confusing bullet point on a slide, such as an unfamiliar industry acronym, can distract an audience member for the entire slide
  4. “Did he mean…?” If a word you choose has a second meaning, particularly a dirty meaning, don’t use it. Even the grown-ups in the room will get distracted, even if just for a few seconds

Conclusion

Following the “No Thinking Rule”, you’re going to have a much more effective pitch deck. Your communication will be clearer, so your audience will waste less time getting distracted and have more time to focus on your story.

(This was a description of a deck’s more technical aspects – for the content of a killer pitch deck, see my post here.)