Tag Archives: presentation

Fight Against Lazy Writing


Although I am not necessary an advocate for perfection, I am fierce fighter against sloppy writing. I believe in “less is more”. Write like you would be boxing, every hit has to do damage to your opponent. Strip away all the fluff, edit and then condense even more.

I have been reading this excellent book about making of James Joyce´s Ulysses and it reminded me of this Ezra Pound´s classic poem called “In A Station of the Metro” (right spacing in the above picture):

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Short, isn´t it?

The story behind this imagist classic is inspiring. Ezra Pound stepped onto the platform of a metro station and caught a glimpse of transcendent face amongst the crowd. As he turned to follow it, he saw another ones. This mesmerized him and he wanted to write poem about it. He wrote over thirty-line poem about it, tried to finesse it but eventually tore it up. It just was not working the way he intended (Pound was fierce editor). The sight haunted him and he tried to write it again six months later. He failed miserably. Eventually he finished the above poem, year after. Only two lines and 14 words: nothing more and nothing less.

That story should be the guiding light for everyone who has to write in his or her work. Simpler is more difficult to write, but it is more effective. The same Ezra Pound laid out the three laws of writing imagist poetry in his “A Retrospect”:

  1. Direct treatment of the ‘thing’ whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

These rules are worth to live by even when not writing poetry. Essentially you must cut the crap, get to the point and let it flow. In advertising where our space is even shorter, it is disrespectful to our audience to write lazy copy. We should be always sharp, simple and short.

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9 Tips On How To Be An Interesting Conference Speaker

I used to speak in quite a lot of seminars and conferences.
Nowadays I do it less, which means that I do not generally attend any conferences any more. I have some real work to do.
It is always nice to meet new people, but generally they are always the same people frequenting the seminars (those who have time for them). Other reason why I am avoiding the seminars is the quality of the presentations. Generally they are really boring. If I don´t get a new idea from every presentation, the time spent surfing web and watching cat videos would be time better spent.
Based on my experience in conference circuit, below are nine tips on how to outshine your competitors on the stage. If I would conclude it to one sentence, it would be about: “People are not interested about what you know, but what do you think and feel”. If you can convey that in your presentation, you are already quite far on making compelling presentation:

1. Have a point of view
This is the most important thing. When you are speaking at a conference, your main goal is to be interesting. You are not promoting your company; you are promoting your thinking.
What is the main idea you want to get across? If you do not have that clear idea with your presentation, you should get out of that stage. Now.
Having a point of view does not mean that you are smart or even close to the actually truth. The information is accessible to everyone, but only you can provide your own point-of-view. That is what makes you unique presenter. Don´t tell me stats I already know, but what is your take on those stats.

2. Don´t pitch your company, pitch yourself
I met my ex-colleague during lunch break of seminar he was attending. He mentioned that majority of the talks were just company pitches. This is like a plague especially in Singapore. I even attended Pecha Kucha here and majority of the talks were company pitches without no personality or point-of-view.
It was really downer.
I have gotten leads from every industry seminar I have spoken. I have usually mentioned firm I was working in the beginning and occasionally shown couple of case studies of what I have done (if relevant). That´s it. 99% of the presentation has been trying present compelling point-of-view about the state of world. Generally after the seminar, there has been a queue of people coming to talk more. There will be opportunities to handle your business cards and give your elevator pitch after your presentation. Would you rather talk with an interesting person with compelling views or desperate salesman who just sweats desperation?

3. Go against the grain
You have to make your audience feel something. If you are speaking in Social Media conference, have a title “Social Media is Dead” because every other presentation is praising the collective power of social media and using the same case studies. You don´t need to preach the idea of social media to already those already converted. You have to wake them up!
Generally people who attend seminars are more up-to-date with the world, so you can try provoking some thoughts from them. Also those who would need digital marketing education never attend the digital marketing seminars.

4. Good presentation asks questions, but does not provide answers
Usually length of a presentation in seminar is 45 minutes. It is quite a short time. If you can make people think and asking questions, your goal is accomplished. The idea is not showcase everything you know, but to showcase the highlights of what you know and think in interesting way.

5. Good presentation is entertainment, not education
In seminars you have a fierce competitor for the attention: the smartphone. Immediately you are sounding boring, people start to focus on their mobile devices.

6. Don´t Sweat The Technique
I have seen great presentations without any aids or props. I also have seen awesome presentations, which use all the technical bells and whistles you can imagine. If you have the compelling point-of-view, the technique can either amplify or weaken it. It is more about personal preferences and style you have when presenting. Prepare also that there are always technical difficulties: no Apple adapters, fonts missing, computer breaking down, timelines not met, and microphone on mute… Be professional with it and go through the worst-case scenario before your presentation. Be ready to present even without your precious slides.

7. Adjust to the audience
Smaller the audience, the more interactivity I try to have and vice versa. General rule-of-thumb is that bigger the audience you have the more idiotic the questions will be. That is because they are not questions anymore, but more about showing how smart the asker is. Usually they are also pitching their company. Save that stuff for after-seminar cocktails, please.

8. Don´t Say Sorry
I don´t care if you haven´t had time to prepare your slides. When you are in the stage, be proud and don´t apologize your existence. You should be there for a reason.

9. Dress snappily
If everything else fails, at least they remember that you had flair and mint sneakers.

Speaking of conferences, I don´t like sending my slides in advance either.

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Mathematics of Creativity

John Leach on the “Mathematics of creativity” Part 1 from accountplanninggroup on Vimeo.

Stumbled upon this awesome presentation from John Leach. Although technically this is more about calculation than actual mathematics, it is still worth a look. Really entertaining and useful keynote.

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Is Creative Advertising also Effective?

Simple answer to simple question:


Great presentation deck on the subject from James Hurman:

The Case for Creativity

View more presentations from James Hurman
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Craft Your Presentation like a FBI Interrogation

I first stumbled on to Reid interrogation technique in Jo Nesbø´s book Headhunters, which gave the impression that this method is also used in job interviews. The technique is originally used in interrogations and is widely applied in North America with different law-enforcement agencies, such as FBI. The technique caught my eye immediately and I have been toying with an idea to utilize it in sales presentations.

As the Reid technique is registered trademark and actually much more than just the nine-step interrogation technique and all I have learned about it is from the Norwegian detective novels (Nesbø actually mentioned it in one other of his novels as well), you should take the following nine steps with a pinch of salt. However I still think there are some valuable lessons to be used in your presentations and sales pitches:

Nine steps of persuading presentation

1. Start with the Direct Confrontation
When you start your presentaion, go straight to the point. Explain candidly the problems your potential clients are facing. Be straight and frank about it, do not sugarcoat it.
2. Symphatize with the Client
When you have gotten the attention by telling how screwed they are, soften your tone. Show that you understand the situation, address the challenges and express sympathy. You are there to help them out from the trouble.
3. Discourage Denying the Problems
In the Reid method, this step is ensuring that the suspect does not say many times “I don´t do it”, because more you say it more you start to believe it. So when presenting the problems there is only “bad cop”-mode in presentation.
4. Anticipate the Counterarguments
When presenting a bold choices, first reaction is usually denial and many counterarguments will follow. Be prepared to answer them. When you are answering the hardest counter-arguments before they get to even asked in your presentation, you are making the opponent armless.
5. Reinforce Sincerity
After this, it is again time to play good cop. Express sympathy for the situation and ensure that there is a way out of it.
6. Move the Discussion to Presenting the Alternatives
Usually at this point the audience will become quieter and listen. You have proved that you have done your homework. If you have been persuasive enough, they want to really know how can you help them out their mess. It it is time to present your solution.
7. Present Two Alternatives.
You present two choices, other one which is more socially acceptible. The potential client is likely to select that easier alternative.  The end-result is the same in both of them: you start your collaboration with the potential client. Of course the client has always the third option, which is not to to select you. Or in the interrogation that he is denying guilt. That third alternative is something which you try to actively make obsolete during your presentation.
8. Get Public Approval
If you have gone according the steps, you are almost closing the deal. Now you should aim to get public approval of your strategy and solution from the highest-ranking client in the room. This might be quite tricky in actual pitch presentation, but you should at least get certain points which are publicly approved. This will help the further negotiations and set the right tone in them.
9. Document the Approval Immediately
If you are ballsy enough, after getting the public approval, you should have the actual contract with you and hand it over to the potential clients and to get it signed. Good luck with that.

As a disclaimer, the Reid technique is prohibited in several European countries because it has said to produce too many false confessions. So try this at your own peril. Also if you try it to someone who knows it, there are certain ways to attack these steps as well.

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How to Lose a Pitch?

If I would be a client, I would not have traditional pitch process. I would instead meet couple of agencies, which seem interesting to me. Have a long discussion with them to see how they view your business and the strategy. These discussions should happen with the potential core team that would be working with you (not just figureheads). This way I would ensure that the chemistry was right and their thinking is sharp. I think the best way to assess the ability to do good work is by evaluating the actual work the agency has done for their existing clients instead of the circus with usually is involved in the traditional pitches. If past cases appear satisfying then it boils down to the chemistry.

That being said, I love those NB (new business) pitches. They usually require plenty of work, fights with the team, all-nighters, panicking, plenty of killed ideas and lots coffee. But when you win them, it is one of the best feelings you can have in this business. Also other way around, the announcement of losses have driven me to the depths of depression. Then the only cure is to get back to the saddle and win the next one.

I have never believed someone who says that he has flawless track-record with pitches. That just means they are lying or just participating in small-time competitions. On the top, the difference is small. No matter how good you are or what you do, sometimes you just lose. And that´s part of the game.

There are certain mistakes, which I have seen doing repeatedly in pitches (and over and over again).

How will you surely lose the pitch?

1. By Being afraid of losing.
Usually when someone says “we have to win this”, everyone starts stressing. Yes, you always have to be serious about winning, but it is better to gamble than play safe. If you are afraid to be daring in pitch presentation, you usually will not be daring when doing the actual work. You do not change your agency philosophy to win pitches. Or you shouldn´t do mundane middle-of-the-way crap to make sure that you do not offend anyone. Or you should not be playing safe. The pitch is not only about client reviewing you, it is also about you reviewing the client. The cost of having difficult or bullying client who is not a right match for your agency will always be unprofitable on the long run.
2. By not doing your best work.
It is a false belief that the agency who does the best work always wins. Too many times the initial decision is much more actually about the politics. Or the client is just too damn scared to do the right thing. This should not prevent from always delivering the best work you can. There are two valid reasons to lose a pitch in my opinion:
* The work was too daring (This usually means that the client does not really want a real strategic partner, which pushes the creative envelope)
* Your agency was too expensive (This usually means that the client is a cheapskate)
3. Underestimating the value of the personal relations.
This does not mean that the pitch is about cabinet politics. However, sometimes you might have lost the pitch even before your presentation because the decision-maker is a fishing buddy of your rival agency head. Try to maximize the time you spent with the potential client to see are they really setting up a fair game.
4. Playing by the rules.
I have been part of winning pitches where we have only presented the strategy. Or where we have presented over 100 print ads. Or where we have presented ready-made film. Or where we have just shown the showreel and had couple of talks. This just illustrates the fact that you always have to set up different game plan for the different pitches.
Other thing is that you should take the pitch brief with a grain of salt. You should not present what client asks, but what he really needs. You might increase your risk of losing, but also maximizing the differentation from others. So usually if you are forbidden to change the logo or tagline, you should at least evaluate the possibility. And if you can improve them, go ahead.
5. Not knowing your enemies
Always make sure who are your opponents in the pitch. If the client does not say it straight, use your contacts in other agencies to find out. This way you can set up your game plan. Certain agencies have certain style, so you have to maximize the differentation from them. Also because other agencies are doing the same thing, I stress the importance of the 4th part. Do surprising moves, so your opponents cannot anticipate them.
6. Not putting a good show.
The pitches are many times more about showing that you care than showing that you can. That is why different stunts work well in NB-context. It is not because the clients choose you, because you have decorated your meeting room the resemble aeroplane (in airline pitch) or that everyone is wearing custom-made sports-sneakers (for sports client). By having a good show, you demonstrate that you really care.
8. Not putting anyone at charge.
The common pitfall of pitch is that there are too many egomaniacs in the same team (typical problem in every ad agency meeting room) and no one is really leading the group. This results in absurd fights about who is presenting and in what order. There has to be a designated leader for every pitch, who makes sure that the best work is to be done. He makes the final decisions. He also has to make sure that the presentation is done at time. Plenty of great work has been flushed by toilet just by last-minute panicking. At certain point your presentation is ready and you should always make time for also the rehearsing it. If you are presenting disorganized great thinking you will just seem disorganized, not a great thinker.
9. By going overboard
It is one thing to show that you care compared to showing that you know. It is usually always better to present less slides and leave room for conversation, than try to bore your audience to believe. The pitch is surviving of the fittest: you present only things which are essential in that you win. You do not present things, which are nice add-ons. So leave room for the presentation and do not go overtime.
10. By stressing
I have seen great presentations collapsing because the technology does not work. I think it actually the only thing you should take for granted in every office setting: video projector never works. So prepare for the projector meltdown. We will be assessed by our reaction to that event as well. If you are having nervous breakdown for a mere keynote crushing, how will the client assess your ability to cope in really disastrous situation?

So relax, do your best and kick some butt.

The best way to win pitches is straightforward: Maintaining good personal relationships and having a good reputation. This is achieved by doing damn good work every single day for every single client you have.

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No Digital Strategy

I had this presentation couple of months ago in Finland talking about the need of having digital in the core of your business and not as a separate unit.
Actually this presentation has quite bittersweet tone for me because the organizer of the event went bankrupt and I only got like 30% of my speaking fee. First time that ever happened.
Well hopefully you enjoy this:
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