We do what it says on the tin - we focus purely on presentations, on improving the impact, engagement and the results people get from their presentations.
Our view has always been that presentations are so important. You see it in pitches, you see it internally to get changes put through, you see it in all manner of presentations, but so often they are not given a very high profile.
What’s your background and how did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
Well it started back in 2004 and was prompted by the fact my wife and I were starting a family.
Before Eyeful, I had a lovely job working as a head of a division for an international technology business. I got to work with great people, good friends and I got to travel all over the world.
But I had a horrible nagging feeling that I would never be at home, to see my family grow up. So somewhat naively, I thought if I start my own business, I can choose my own hours. Which obviously any entrepreneur that’s done this for a couple of years will know is complete fallacy. But it’s the best decision I ever made and it’s allowed me to follow my passion for presentations.
It was a frustration in my previous life. I had been on the receiving end of many bad presentations and I’d given a few bad ones too, equally though I’d delivered a couple of real corkers.
What was interesting was identifying the difference between the two. The difference in impact on my audience of a bad presentation verses a good presentation was huge.
So I became a bit of a presentation geek and off the back of that I then went out and started sharing my ideas with customers and it just snowballed.
The exact same way as we help large businesses. We’re really fortunate to work with companies of all sizes, from one-man-bands all the way up to the likes of Microsoft and American Express. Either way, our approach stays the same.
Frankly the presentations are all the same level of importance, possibly even more important to small businesses.
How important is it for startups and small businesses alike to showcase their potential through presentations and why?
I’d say it’s absolutely key. When I look at how I started Eyeful Presentations, you quickly recognise stakes are high.
If I go back to the first big pitch I made as Eyeful, it all comes together. If I hadn’t thought carefully about the audience, my message, my structure, the visuals I was going to use, then frankly we probably wouldn’t be in business today.
I think typically one of the great assets a small business has is the passion the presenter has if they are a one-man-band - it’s likely to come through. But, one of the challenges they have is that the presentation doesn’t become all about them. It should be all about your audience and the impact you can have on your audience.
Looking at the original business plan (which is always embarrassing) I now realise that I missed one very important thing which has actually been the lifeblood of the business… and that’s repeat business.
For us, repeat business is really important in a couple of areas. One obviously is revenue, which pays the bills, the salaries and keeps us moving forward. But it’s also a really good measure of how good we are.
We survey our customers, we stay very close to them, we respond to any concerns they might have. But the acid test is, do they keep coming back to you? For us repeat business has been a really, really important part of our growth. It remains an incredibly important test to check that we are doing stuff right.
The book was written for people working in organisations of all sizes, whether you’re working for a mega corp or if your starting out on your own and you’re pitching for funding. There are tried and tested tips, ideas and processes to follow, all of which make a huge difference.
Great presentations are about some really basic things and getting these right. So it’s about making sure you think about your audience, as they are the most important stakeholder in any presentation so you’ve got to get into their head and off the back of that develop your message, your structure and your content.
Choose your content very carefully - don’t just shove loads of detail in there! Then, and only then do you think about the visuals (which, bizarrely, is the bit that people tend to obsess about!).
The Presentation Lab book takes people through that process, something we call Presentation OptimisationTM As a result, it gives them a great opportunity to very quickly grab hold of things and make changes to their current presentation that make a huge difference.
I think it’s down to that practical nature - it’s not waffly, it’s not overly lofty and it’s demonstrates ‘what good looks like’. Importantly, it then lets you in on the secrets so you can practically apply those ideas to your own presentations.
It’s certainly not a ‘how to be brilliant at PowerPoint’ book, because being brilliant at PowerPoint doesn’t mean that you’ve engaged your audience and if that’s the case then that’s your biggest problem.
It all links back to what I was saying before, you’ve got to Think, Act and Deliver in a different way.
So my recommendations would be:
1. In terms of thinking differently, start on paper. Every presentation that Eyeful creates begins life on paper. If the first thing you do when creating a presentation is double click on the PowerPoint icon and start filling up slides, you’re going to end up with death by PowerPoint.
2. The audience is really, really important so try and understand them. We have a process in the book called Audience Heatmapping which is a way of helping you get your head around how an audience thinks. The reason? Because off the back of that you can then develop your presentation in the right direction to meet their needs.
3. In terms of acting differently, what’s your message? What do you want your audience to do as a result of this presentation? All presentations should prompt a change in your audience - it might be a change in attitude or in the way they think about certain things, there’s a whole heap of different things it should be doing. Your message is key to that and supports a strong structure.
4. Finally think about the way you deliver - you can think beyond PowerPoint! I’ve seen some brilliant presentations delivered on quite an intimate level, just me and the presenter who delivered on their smartphone. Equally, I’ve seen great presentations delivered on a whiteboard. So I implore people to be brave and stop believing that PowerPoint is the only option - there are a whole heap of different delivery tools out there, so try them and engage with your audience in a different way.