Strategic Thinking Applied to Making Winning Presentations to Investors

As a business coach I find that business people always seem very interested and eager for advice on how to make winning presentations. And recently there has been an increased interest in seeking advice for making winning presentations to investors for their business. They want to know how best to prepare that winning presentation to a prospective investor. Applying strategic thinking to this request, here are ten actions I recommend to anyone desiring to make a winning presentation to investor(s).

1. Know who the audience will be. Research who will be attending and what their backgrounds are so that you know something about who will be listening to your presentation and making the decision on your request.

2. Target your message to the investors. Do some homework by talking with a key player among the investors who will be in attendance. Find out what some of their “hot buttons” are and what they look for in their investment opportunities.

3. Arrive early and be ready to present at the appointed time.

4. Be concise and get to your point quickly. Investors can lose interest very quickly if your presentation does not get to the point quickly.

5. Know the time limit for your presentation and honor it. This shows that you respect the value of everyone’s time.

6. Prepare your presentation to assure that you will keep within the time allotted to you.

7. Anticipate questions that may be asked and prepare yourself to answer them. Do a “trial run” of your presentation with some colleagues or business advisers posing as the “potential investors” and have them ask questions after your presentation.

8. Never, never, never try to fake your way through your presentation, evade a question or knowingly tell an untruth. If you do not know the answer to a question, be honest and admit that you do not know. This will portray you as being honest and straightforward.

9. Rehearse your presentation and have someone provide constructive criticism to you. Make any necessary adjustments to the presentation to address the points of constructive criticism.

10. Practice, practice, practice your presentation!

Thinking strategically and employing the above tips when preparing for your presentation will increase your probability of success in making a winning presentation to investors.

Spreadsheet Presentation

When you first use Microsoft Excel, your primary concern is to keep a lot of numbers into a single file. You may also use spreadsheets to analyze data. If asked to identify an advanced user, most people would define an Excel expert as someone who can use the package to perform complex calculations.

To a certain extent, that is true. The logic involved in writing Excel formulas is similar to that required for computer programming. However, if you start to think in those terms, you can forget the great advantage of Excel. Fundamentally, it is designed to present data. That’s why the package has a chart wizard. Yes, it can be used as a calculator, but it can also be used as management reporting software. Therefore we should consider not just the substance, but also the visual appearance of our spreadsheets.

If asked to draw a spreadsheet, most people would draw a simple criss-cross of horizontal and vertical lines on a white background. On Windows 95, that may have looked cutting edge but, on Windows 7, everything’s become rounded and shaded. As an Excel consultant, I would nearly always get rid of gridlines. You can do this by unchecking the Gridlines box from Tools->Options->View->Windows Options on early versions of Excel, or from View->Show/Hide on Excel 2007/2010.

The only reason for having gridlines is to identify cells in the same row or column. This is extremely important e.g. within a table. I would certainly recommend adding internal borders to the tables in your spreadsheet. The difference between borders and gridlines is that you can manage the formatting of borders to ensure they are aesthetically pleasing.

Another trick of the consulting trade is to remove row and column headings. One reason Excel feels somewhat dated is that it says A, B, C, D… at the top of the sheet, and has a list of numbers at the side. You can remove these by unchecking the Headings box next to the Gridlines box. When developing formulas, it is extremely useful to see the headings because they will quickly tell you which column is which. Therefore, I would only recommend making this change once you have built your file.

The two changes I’ve recommended above will make your on-screen sheet look just like the printed version. Our next concern is to ensure your experience of Excel matches your experience of other programs and the worldwide web.

This means you should use an up-to-date font and color scheme. Since Office 2007, Microsoft has moved away from Arial and Times New Roman fonts, instead preferring users to use Calibri. If you have an old spreadsheet, it may still be written in an older font. I would recommend selecting all the cells in your spreadsheet and setting the font to Calibri. Much as Microsoft has invested a lot of time in graphical menus, the main reason Excel 2007 looks modern is because it uses modern fonts.

Color is also of interest. On the internet, it is very unusual to see a completely white website, Google being a notable exception. Most websites draw attention to content by lightly shading any peripheral space. You can see this on a site like Wikipedia and, it is so subtle, you may not have noticed it. Microsoft Word certainly uses a blue surround to highlight the main content. So why not color your entire spreadsheet light blue/grey, and make any tables white?

These simple tips are far more important to spreadsheet development than being able to write macros and formulas. You can create the best spreadsheet in the world but its presentation is the first thing your manager will notice.

Banquet Items for Food Presentation

Our organization, called the B.O.B or Big Old Building, was a hot spot for big occasions in the West Michigan area so it was essential that the banquet workers created a very professional and enjoyable atmosphere for the event hosts and all their guests because most of the time, these groups paid top dollar to be able to enjoy themselves in this particular building. Global organizations would hold their conferences here, more well off families would reserve this place for their child’s wedding, and non-profits would rent out this highly trafficked joint to bring awareness to their cause or to seek out donations. No matter what the cause, a certain high level of food service was required for the event to be a success. There are many ways of accomplishing this professionalism in food presentation, most of which are associated with the particular kitchen products, food displays or the specialized service that was provided to any attendee. Chafing dishes with roll-tops and Sterno chafing fluid that keeps the food warm, elegant drink dispensers, and even fancy stainless steel flatware were all frequently used during events and are tools that will add to the prestige of any event.

I struggled as a banquet server, not because I was not good at carrying trays of food or arranging the food display in an appetizing manner, but more so because I struggled with the professionalism in the service. I had spent nearly four years working in bars and restaurants prior to this experience and I had found all my success (in the form of tips) by being personable with the guests. I was able to provide better service to the visitors by being myself rather than by following certain codes or professional guidelines. For this reason, my three month period of being a banquet server was very insightful and it taught me a great deal of things about food presentation and the impact that nice kitchen products and utensils have on the professionalism of an event.

Banquet items are never a bad idea even if an individual, family or group is looking for a way to present food options at a more informal event as well. Chafing dishes are a great option and tool if one has the excess funds to purchase one of these items. On the downside though, there are a large number of slow cookers that are offered to the public now that have a fancier look to them, which means that instead of transferring the contents of crock pots to something like a chafing dish, chefs are simply leaving it in the slow cooker with a serving utensil. In addition to this, the purchase of a banquet item is only justified if that item gets used regularly. There is no sense in purchase an expensive kitchen item if the buyer only plans on putting it to use a handful of times.