Presentation skills: The Power of Changing the Focus of a Sentence

Making what you say during a presentation have more impact by changing the focus of a sentence.

Focus

In a presentation your content is of course essential. However, if you want to make a real impact, it is often not just what you say that is important, but also how you say it. Putting emphasis on certain points in your message by changing the word order of your sentences can help you focus the audience’s the parts that you think they should remember.

‘Given’ and ‘New’ Information

In English, important information is often put at the beginning or the end of a sentence, but there are two types of important information: ‘Given’ information and ‘new ‘information.

Given information is that which the listener already knows, and it is usually put at the beginning of a sentence. So, if the topic of your presentation is poverty, you can assume that this is given information for the audience. In that case you would probably use something like the following sentence:

Poverty is the state of being extremely poor.

‘New’ information is that which the listener has not heard before, and this information is put at the end of a sentence. 

Poverty is the state of being extremely poor.

Looking at this sentence, you will see that when defining the term poverty, that which defines the term is put at the end of the sentence. In other words, the information in the last part of the sentence explains, or gives meaning to the first part. That is because the definition of the term poverty is the new information.

This idea of putting given information at the beginning of a sentence and new information at the end can be very helpful when building  a well-structured argument if you make the new information from one sentence the given information from the next. In other words, the what you added to the last part of one sentence  as new information, should be put at the beginning of the next as given information, like in the following example:

Poverty is the state of being extremely poor. Being extremely poor has negative effects on the economy.

You could now continue your argument by making the new information from the last sentence, the given information in the next. In this case you would then start by taking negative effects on the economy as the beginning of your next sentence. Please note, however, that when using this technique, you should not always just copy the exact words from the previous sentence, since this would lead to a very awkward writing style. You should, however, repeat the information, so in many cases you should paraphrase instead of repeat.

Shifting Focus

As mentioned, shifting focus means changing the word order of a sentence to put emphasis on something in a sentence.  This could be, for instance:

  • A person
  • An object
  • A time
  • Etc.

Now let’s look at how you could change to focus of a sentence by changing the normal word order.

Normal sentence:

Alexander Fleming invented penicillin in 1928.

Focus on the person:

It was Alexander Fleming who invented penicillin in 1928.

Focus on the object:

It was penicillin which Alexander Fleming invented.

Focus on the time:

It was in 1928 when Alexander Fleming invented penicillin.

Changing the focus of the sentence by moving the things you want to emphasis to the front of the sentence allows you to formulate your words in such a way that your audience is much more likely to remember.

Introducing ‘New’ Information

Keeping in mind that new information usually goes at the end of a sentence, it makes sense that if you put it there when you introduce it for the first time. So, let’s look at the following examples:

Normal sentence:

Global warming is my subject today.

New information at the end:

What I’m going to talk about today is global warming.

Normal sentence:

Profitability is essential

New information at the end:

What is essential is profitability.

Clarifying Points

When talking about complex topics, or when, for some reason, you digressed from what you planned to talk about, you will need some expressions to put the focus back on the main points of what you wanted to say. Here are some expressions that will help you do that:

Let me put in another way …

Look at it this way …

What I’m trying to say is …

The point/thing is …

Conclusion

Putting focus on specific information by changing the word order in order to change the emphasis in a sentence can be a very powerful presentation technique. Just by carefully thinking about how you say what you want to say could dramatically improve the impact your message will have on your audience, so use it to your advantage.

How to make the perfect pitch deck with 10 slides

How to make the 10 slides you need for the perfect pitch

Okay, so you have managed to get yourself invited to a meeting during which you will get your shot to pitch your business idea to room full of important decision makers. This is the moment you have been waiting for to present your revolutionary product, service or idea, and you really need to make an impression. You know what you want to say, and how you want to say it, and your ideas are well connected. But is your slide deck the best it can be? Below you will find how to produce the 10 slides you need for a perfect pitch.

The Purpose of a Pitch

Before you decide what your slide deck is going to look like, you need to think about what the purpose of your pitch is. It is very rare for investors to make commitments based on a 20-minute presentation by someone they may have never seen before, so as a presenter, instead of going after this, your pitch should go after arranging a second meeting in which you can get into the specifics of your idea. Therefore, you should keep your pitch concise, simple, and clear, and you should not try to cover all the aspects of your proposal or provide too much detail. Your goal should be to generate enough interest in your idea to get another meeting. That is all.

What Should Your Slide Deck Look Like?

If you want your slides to be effective, it is important to keep them very simple. You don’t want your audience examining your slides while they should be listening to your pitch. Your slide deck is your support, not the main feature of your pitch, and it should not be a distraction. You also need to figure out how to talk about your visuals. In other words, you need to decide what you are (and may be more importantly) and what you are not going to talk about when it comes to your slides. The general rule should be, the more slides you need, the less compelling your idea is. In most cases, all you need for an effective and memorable pitch is ten simple slides with mostly keywords and pictures, and you should never need more than fifteen.

  1. The Title Slide

Your title slide should contain the following information:

  • Company name
  • Name and title
  • Address
  • Email
  • Phone number

This slide should be up during the beginning of the presentation, when you introduce yourself, thank your audience for the opportunity to pitch your idea, etc. Generally speaking, detailed information like names, addresses, and numbers, are very difficult to remember, so it is important to visually support them by putting them on the slide.

  • The Problem/ Opportunity

Your second slide should be all about the problem you are solving or the opportunity you are presenting. For example, if your idea is selling a revolutionary type of paint that is environmentally friendly, and that is so strong that it will last for twenty years, you may want to talk about the problem of having the repaint your whole house every five years.

If your idea is about offering an app that will allow  regular people to trade on the stock market, using the same real-time information stockbrokers have access to, you could start your pitch by explaining that up until the present ‘normal people’ don’t have the opportunity to effectively trade on the stock market because the lack of access to up-to-date information. Presenting the problem or opportunity should serve as the ‘hook’ of your presentation; a way to grab your audience’s attention.

  • The Value Proposition

After you have talked about the problem or the opportunity, you need to explain how your idea, product or service solves this problem or how it provides pleasure for your buyers. In short, you should answer the questions: What is in it for the customer if they by my product?’. The answer to this question is your value proposition. You should be able to answer this question in a concise, and clear way.

  • The Underlying Magic

Explaining the ‘underlying magic’ is about making sure that your audience understands what the technology is behind what you are offering. This will help them to assess what makes your product different from what your competitors might be offering. You need to explain what makes your it special. To do this, you can put simple charts, diagrams, or other visuals on your slide, but make sure that you keep them as simple as possible. This means using very little text and using pictures instead of words when possible. If you have a working prototype of your product, this is when you should do a demonstration. Keep in mind that it is always better to show your product than to talk about your product.

  • The Business Model

Explaining your business model is all about making clear how your idea makes money for you and your potential investors. Basically, this means talking about who has ‘the money’ now and how you are going to get it instead. In case of the aforementioned investment app you are going to explain how the app is going to generate income. For example, this could be by  asking money for the app itself, charging the app users for in-app transactions, putting ads inside the app, etc.

  • The Go-to-Market Plan

Presenting your go-to-market plan concerns making clear how you are going to reach your customers. This could be by opening up brick-and-mortar stores, starting a website, making deals with large retail chains, etc.

The go-to-market plan also involves a marketing strategy. In other words, how are you going to make sure that your customers know you exist. Are you going to buy Facebook Ads? Are you planning to reach your customers through influencers, and so on.

  • The Competitive Analysis

A competitive analysis involves providing a complete overview of who your competitors are. What counts here is that it is usually better to have too many than too few, because having a lot of competitors means that there probably is a large demand for what you are offering. Many starting businesses tend to underestimate how much competition they have and paint a picture for their potential investors that is not realistic.

  • The Management Team

Who is in your management team is important for your potential investors to know. Investing in a business is often about trust, so investors would like to know who they will be working with if they decide to invest and what these people do. If there are other investors that are already on-board, this should also be made clear. You may worry that you don’t have the perfect team yet to run your business, but you need to keep in mind that is why you are delivering your pitch.

  • The Financial Projections and Key Metrics

On this slide your need to back up your claims with numbers. You need to explain how much money you are going to need from your investors to continue growing your business. You need to forecast the number of potential customers, how much they are going to spend, what your turn-over projections are, etc. It is important that you present your metrics ‘bottom-up’. This means that you start with the smallest viable customer base to be able to run your business, and then explain how you are going to grow that customer base about three years into the future.

  1. The Current Status, Timeline, and Use of Funds

Finally, you need to explain the development status of your product, service, or idea. Do you have a working prototype? Are you already selling your product? How is the business currently doing?  Next, you need to explain what your future plans for the business are, what you want to achieve, and how you are planning to use the investors’ money you are trying to raise. This should also be your closing remark of your pitch.

How to Write and Elevator Pitch

How to write a clear and effective elevator pitch

How to make an elevator pitch

Before you start making your elevator pitch, there are a number of things that are important to know. You need to understand what an elevator pitch is and why they are important. Also, you need to know how to write one, and to help you do that, it is a good idea to look at some examples and tips.

What is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch is a short presentation that usually is under two minutes in length. It could even be under one minute. The reason why it is called an elevator pitch is because the duration of the presentation is about the same as how long it takes to ride an elevator to the top of a tall building. Another way in which the term elevator pitch could be explained is that it was based on the hypothetical situation that you could run into an important business executive while sharing an elevator and that you would have the length of the ride to run your business idea by him/her.

An elevator pitch could be about yourself – for instance, if you are looking for a job – or it could be about a business idea, a product or a service.

Why is an elevator pitch important?

You could look at an elevator pitch as a mini-presentation that is always ready to go, and there is a variety of reasons why it is helpful to have one. First of all, an elevator pitch could serve as a good icebreaker to start a conversation and it is a useful way to get a lot of information across in a short time. Also, your pitch could work as an effective transition from the online-version of you, to the real-life version of you. It could serve as a way to be more than a person on a phone or a screen and could help you to make an impression. A well-prepared elevator pitch also helps you in exciting or stressful situations in which you want to rely on information that you have already thought about and prepared. Finally, an elevator pitch may also create opportunities for you to take the lead in conversations in which you need to make an impact.

How to write an elevator pitch

An effective elevator pitch is made up of four parts. First, you need to introduce yourself in a way that is short but memorable. Also, you need to provide a summary of what you do. This is important because it helps the listener to assess whether you, or the idea, product or service you provide, could be of help. Once you have made this clear to your audience, you need to explain what you want. In other words, this is the part in which you explain what you have to offer, or which problem you solving. Finally. your elevator pitch should always end with a call to action. This means that you have to make something happen that will help you to maintain the relationship between you and the person you are pitching to. This could be trying to set up a meeting, offering to call, sending an email, etc.

Now let’s look at these four elements in a bit more detail.

Explaining who you are

When you meet someone for the first time, you need to say hello and give your full name. Depending on what the custom is, you accompany this with a handshake, or a bow, etc. After that, you may want to add a pleasantry like, ‘It’s nice to meet you.’, ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you.’ or something along those lines.

Explaining what you do

Explaining what you do starts with describing your background and briefly giving an overview of your education. This helps your listener to determine who you are. After that, you need to explain what your work experience is, so the person you are pitching to can assess whether your skills and your background could be useful. It also helps to emphasize any specialties or strengths you may have, because these may set you apart from potential competitors. Here’s an example of how to introduce yourself and explain what you do:

Hi, my name is Yui. It’s so nice to meet you! I’m a PR manager with a special focus on overseeing successful initiative launches from beginning to end. Along with my seven years of professional experience, I recently graduated with an MBA from Osaka University, with a focus on consumer trust and retention…

Explaining what you want

After you have explained who you are and have told your listener a bit about your background, you need to make clear what you want. What that is depends on the situation, of course. You may want to pitch yourself, an idea you have, a product of a service, but what all these have in common is that they should all include an ‘ask’. In your ask’ you specifically state the goal of your pitch. This could be a job opportunity, an internship, or just the contact information for a follow-up meeting.

Secondly, you need to explain the ‘value’ you bring to the table. In other words, you need the explain what your audience has to gain by listening to you so they understand what you have to offer.  Let’s look at the following example:

I find the work your PR team does to be innovating and refreshing—I’d love the opportunity to put my expertise to work for your company…

Finishing with a call to action

Now that your audience knows who you are, what you do, and what you want, you need to end your pitch with a call to action, in which you explain what you would like to happen next. This could be a request for setting up a meeting, getting the opportunity to express your interest in a job, etc. What is important is that you make something happen that will lead to further contact between you and the people you spoke to.

If your request is agreed to, you need to thank your audience for their time and obtain their contact information. Be sure to end your conversation with a ‘task-oriented’ goodbye, like:

Thank you for your time. I will send you a follow-up email tonight. Have a great day.

Here is another example:

Would you mind if I set up a quick call next week for us to talk about any upcoming opportunities on your team?

Examples

As mentioned, what your pitch will look like very much depends on what you would like to achieve or what your ‘ask’ is, so next are some examples that have been put into context.

Context: Adding a contact

Job title: Business analyst

Hello! My name is Anwar, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I have a background in Business Analytics with just over 10 years’ experience creating data-driven solutions for various business problems. Specifically, I love and have had great success in the strategic evaluation of data analysis with our executive staff. It sounds like you do similar work—I would love to keep in touch to learn more about what you and your company do.”

Context: Seeking a job opportunity

Job title: Media Planner

Hi, I’m Tom. I’ve spent the last eight years learning and growing in my role as Media Planner, where I’ve developed and optimized strategic media plans for our top client and managed a subset of planners as a Team Lead. One of my proudest achievements was a pro-bono project that was recognized as a top non-profit campaign last year. I’ve been interested in moving to non-profit for quite a while, and love what your company does in education. Would you mind telling me about any media planning needs you may have on the team?

Elevator pitch tips

Of course, your elevator has no value on paper; it needs to be presented orally, so you can make an impression. In order to prepare your pitch, there are a number of things that you can do. First, it helps to read the pitch out loud to yourself to detect any mistakes and opportunities to say things more concisely. Also, you may want to ask a friend to help you practice out loud so you can receive some feedback. This will give you an opportunity to polish and finetune your pitch. Finally, keep in mind that most people, when they get nervous, tend to speed up and start rushing through their speech. Just remember, to keep your pitch short and concise and then take your time and speak at a normal pace.