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Most of us have sat through a painful presentation with endless PowerPoint slides and a droning speaker. If you’re an entrepreneur pitching investors, potential customers or partners, you can’t afford to make that kind of bad impression. As cofounder and CEO of Big Fish Presentations, Kenny Nguyen helps clients create and give presentations that are anything but boring.
His company has worked with clients including NASA, Cabela’s and Pepsi. He also coauthored on a book on the subject called, “The Big Fish Experience: Create Memorable Presentations That Reel In Your Audience.”
StartupNation talked to Nguyen about engaging an audience, overcoming stage fight and more. The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.
StartupNation: How did you get into the presentations niche?
Kenny Nguyen: It’s been six years since I saw a really boring PowerPoint when I was at Louisiana State University. I was attending a student real estate association meeting, where they had a Fortune 500 executive come speak. I was so excited, but I never will forget that feeling of dread when he got up onstage, plugged in his PowerPoint and I saw 200 slides at the bottom of the screen. He read through every single slide and he went on for over two hours.
I started thinking to myself, “Man, if these are like the presentations that are being given right now, I cannot imagine what it’s like in a corporate world.” I thought there should be a company that can help people create better presentations. That’s how I came up with the idea to create Big Fish Presentations.
How can entrepreneurs or others give better presentations?
I think pausing is a really important skill. Pausing is really powerful because it really calibrates the room, especially when you say something really, really important. It’s also important to use the other person’s name. In the Dale Carnegie book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” it says people love to hear two things: their name and also their own voice.
When presenting, it’s very important to remember to first engage the audience and second, create bonds with the audience. By learning who your audience is, you’re more likely to connect with them. So pausing, saying the person’s name, getting to know them and also engaging with them are the things I recommend any presenters do.
Any tips on preparing for a presentation?
What I recommend to every speaker is that they record themselves while rehearsing. Here’s the thing: it’s really hard to watch yourself rehearse, because typically when you watch yourself rehearse, it’s cringeworthy. You know you’re ready when you can watch yourself give a presentation four or five times. I have a rule of thumb for all presenters: you should never give a presentation that you wouldn’t want to sit through yourself. You want to be able to give a presentation that you would watch because you should be passionate about that topic.
Do you recommend memorizing your presentation? Or should you speak more extemporaneously?
I definitely know what my lines are but I don’t remember everything line by line. I don’t believe in that. However, I do rehearse enough to where it does feel natural. I find the best presenters, they memorize a lot of their lines and it sounds off the cuff, but they’re just really good at knowing their material.
Now, there are presenters you can tell they try to rehearse line by line by line, and it doesn’t feel organic. It sounds like straight monotone and that’s not how you want to be. You want to rehearse until it feels natural to you.
Any tips on dealing with stage fright?
What I recommend is that you walk around the room that you’re going to present in if you have a chance right before you go on stage or the day before. Walk around the room, get to know the room.
It’s also important to have your own ritual. I listen to stand-up comedy and it gets my nerves down a lot. Some people like to jump on trampolines. You want to be able to find what makes you the most comfortable. You want to present the best version of yourself.
Anything else you want to add?
We realize that not everyone can hire us, so you can get our book and learn about our presentation process there. We believe step one is content. Step two is design. You have to have a design that simplistic, easy and memorable. The third is making sure you have a powerful delivery. So, content, design and delivery.
“The Big Fish Experience: Create Memorable Presentations That Reel In Your Audience” is available wherever fine books are sold and at StartupNation.com.