On today’s episode, Ian Altman welcomes guest Jason Lapp from Beautiful.AI to discuss the biggest presentation mistakes you might be making.
00:04 Ian Altman
Welcome to the Same Side Selling podcast. I'm your host, Ian Altman. Today we're talking about something that is near and dear to my heart, which is the biggest mistakes that people make when it comes to presentations and how they put themselves out there with their clients and prospects. And my guest today is somebody who is an absolute expert on this because he's the CEO of Beautiful.AI, Jason Lapp. So, Jason, let me welcome you to the program.
00:33 Jason Lapp
Hey Ian. Good to see you.
00:35 Ian Altman
Thanks for being here. So, the topic is the biggest mistake that people make when it comes to presentations. And we use your tool internally, and we don't get paid to use your tool. We use it. So, it's funny because when people reached out and said, hey, do you think Jason be good on the podcast? I'm like, I know that stuff. We use that stuff. But I wanted to, instead of talking about what it is that it does and how it helps people, I want to start by helping people identify problems that maybe are traps they fall into with their presentation. So, can you start down there, down that path, in terms of what problems you see people making when it comes to presentations?
01:13 Jason Lapp
Yeah, sure. So obviously, we're a presentation company, but I've got a long background in selling and presenting myself. But I think there are four things that I usually identify with that I see people making really big mistakes with. The first is company branding. So, when we start to look at how do you show up in the room? How are you representing your brand? Do you have the right fonts, the right colors, do you have the right voice, the right tone? It's more or less getting some structure around the starting point of whatever you're presenting so that it's clean and consistent throughout.
01:51 Ian Altman
And Jason, my sense is that it's not so much that companies never put branding in place. What I often see, and I don't know if there's something that you guys see a lot is that the organization, well, their marketing department, will spend a fortune. They'll work with designers. They'll work with an ad firm to work with an agency that comes up with this amazing design. And then their reps all of a sudden have a presentation that's tomorrow morning, and they kind of wing it, and it totally violates every branding guideline that they have.
02:21 Jason Lapp
And that's right, Ian. I mean, I'm sure you've seen it. I've seen it; I'm probably guilty of it at some point in my career. There's a hard thing between trying to customize a presentation for your audience and staying consistent with your brand. And I think it's hard for companies to get that right. I think it's hard for them to build a structure that is repeatable for every situation. But, you know, obviously, the biggest mistake that we see sales reps doing is going off the grid and putting things in that don't belong. I mean, one of the biggest things I always see is clipart. I don't know if people still use the word clipart. But clipart is, you know, out of the box, or they pull it off Google because they thought it was good. In fact, recently, I saw a presentation that had puppy dogs and tennis balls in it, and that's just the wrong direction.
03:17 Ian Altman
So, the first thing is this idea of branding and consistent branding and maintaining that consistency throughout. So, the second one, are you saying it is clipart, or is there something different than just the clipart?
03:28 Jason Lapp
No, before I get to maybe clipart, there's another practical thing that I think a lot of people overlook when they start to create presentations, and it's really this idea of what is your structured storytelling? What you often see is unstructured storytelling. It might be linear, but you're going up and down, and you're all over the place, and you're distracted and jumping from one topic to the other, and it becomes sort of a potluck of different things. So really, the big area that I think is a mistake but can be fixed really quickly is this idea of, have you figured out what your story arc is? And it has to be custom. You can't come out of the box. Your marketing team may have made this perfect pitch, but it has to be custom to the people you're talking to. And you have to know what the story arc is.
04:18 Ian Altman
Yeah, you know, I love that you mentioned that. As someone who spends most of my life as a professional speaker, a lot of my time is spent on that arc of the story and what happens and where's the conflict and how do we engage people in the story? And I think it's interesting because most of my presentations have very few words on them at all. It's all imagery. And I remember someone came up to me after a session and said, well, your stuff must be easy because you don't have any words on your slides. It is just images that tie to that theme. So, man, I should start doing that. That must be so easy. And I said try it! Because as you know, they have the right image that conveys the right thought that ties into a message are very intentional, and it's something that very often people overlook. And instead, what they do is, and this is something that I'm curious if you see this also, one of the things I see is, the rep who's preparing a presentation, it could be someone in marketing, could be someone in sales, a sales associate, it doesn't matter, whoever is coming up with it. What they do is they open up their favorite presentation tool, and they think, what do we want to say to the client? And then they type that onto the slide. And the question I often ask people is, okay, so this is your deck? Yeah. What are you planning to say? And I'm assuming it's not what's on the slide. And they go, no, no, we were going to say what's on the slide? It's like, no, you can't do that because it's death by PowerPoint. You've got text and bullets in there. The bullets are there so people can kill themselves? I mean, it's just an awful way to go. So, I'm curious to get your thought on that as well.
05:58 Jason Lapp
Yeah, I want to get to what you're talking about, which is visuals in a second. But I think just one more thing on this idea of story arc, and it's really simple. I mean, for any rep, for anybody who's trying to think about how do they put this together, it's exactly what you said. There is a natural curve of the story, and it may have multiple curves and may go into multiple iterations. But the idea of how do you match your story to your visuals is a really important element. And if you have the classic beginning, middle end, or it is crisis, climax, punchline, whatever that might be, you want to be able to then take the imagery along that path and structure in a way that makes sense. And I think that's where you're going, which is okay, well, imagery is important. But the real thing is, the big mistakes happen when it comes to imagery. And there are two things I see. There's one, which is what I was talking about earlier, which is the clipart, the poor pictures, the off-brand stuff, or even your company stuff can be really, you know, difficult to put into the mix. And so, there is this idea of like, well, what is the dynamics on the page? Is there too much text? Are the visuals appropriately positioned? Do they match the story? But there's another bigger theory that people need to think about when they're presenting, which is if you're showing up to a meeting, and you're showing up with a PowerPoint or a presentation to start, you're already losing your audience. So, you need to figure out like you're the presenter; you're the main focus of the room. But when you're using the content behind you, or in a presentation, you want graphs, you want diagrams, you want videos, you want multimedia, you want to use it as a prop to telling your story -- not to tell the story.
07:52 Ian Altman
And I love that you said that. In fact, there's a there's a group out of out of New Jersey called Heroic Public Speaking. Michael and Amy Port run this amazing program. And, part of people who train there, and I had done something called A-Lister there years ago, we took several of us who do a lot of speaking, and six of us spent a few days just ripping apart our talks and building it back together. And part of it is that notion that if you have a proper arc of the story, you can give your presentation with your slides or without, and there's almost no difference. Because you know your material forwards and backward, you know, wherever everything is going to deviate, it all works great. The biggest challenge becomes that then it's a matter of, okay, if my slides are going to add something or help people remember, fantastic. If they aren't, then maybe I shouldn't use them. And that's the balance. And in some cases, the value of a presentation is what you leave behind after. It may not even be what you're delivering at the time.
09:00 Jason Lapp
Yeah, and that's a good point. I think there's a couple of things in there. One of them is the use of visuals to do that storytelling. And I think you and I both have to admit that sometimes, you know, product details or something that's IP specific or unique might require that level of detail on a slide, or it might be a centerpiece for the conversation. But like, as you said, for the story arc, you don't need a slide for every part of the story. You might want to figure out how to get it down to three to five slides, 10 minutes max as sort of a test to make sure that you're keeping some balance between not overdoing it in the slides.
09:42 Ian Altman
There's something else you said that I thought was really interesting earlier, which is you were talking about this notion of when you're presenting, and you show up with a PowerPoint or presentation, and that's your presentation. One of the traps that I think sometimes people overlook is that if you start the meeting with a presentation, what you've just told everyone in the room is, hey, it's nap time, we're going to turn the lights down, we're going to turn the projector on. You can shut off, and now I'm going to present something to you. And one of the pieces of advice that I really try to implore upon the people in my Same Side Selling Academy and the clients I work with is, if you have a presentation, by all means, don't start with it. So, what you want to start with is, if you're meeting with potential clients, you want to start with a discussion. You can even start by saying, here's our understanding of your situation, and I want to make sure that we ask you some questions to make sure that we can actually help and that what we have would be useful. And if so, then we're happy to give you a presentation that shows that, but I want to spend probably the first half of our meeting making sure that we're on target before we go into any of our products or service. Is that okay? And almost no one's going to say no to that. And if you can set that up in advance, even better.
11:02 Jason Lapp
Yeah, I love that, Ian. I'm a big proponent of the same thing. I love to talk. I love to engage the audience. And I think there's another element of what you're talking about, which is it gives you context for what you should and how you should present, even if you just spend two minutes doing that upfront.
11:20 Ian Altman
Yeah, got it. So, we mentioned this idea of the four different problems or the biggest mistakes that people make. So the first one was this notion of the branding side. The second part is this lack of arc of a story. What other traps do people fall into?
11:37 Jason Lapp
Well, so the third, which I think we just sort of mixed it together with storytelling, is really this idea of visuals. And that was, you know, we talked about, sort of, what not to do, and, you know, sort of, how to structure content in a way that's more engaging. There are so many great tools out there right now to create great graphs and diagrams, and videos. You know, even inside of Beautiful.AI, the product that we have, we've gone to great lengths to make it easy to make a Venn diagram, or a timeline or, you know, a pinwheel, or different things that that you should be able to construct really, really fast that differentiate your conversation and your content in the room.
12:21 Ian Altman
Absolutely. And I think that that notion of having detailed information, and graphs and charts, and visuals are really valuable. One of the traps that I see people fall into, and as someone who presents at a lot of different venues, and I see a lot of different speakers. My favorite is the speaker who stands up there and says, yeah, I'm not sure if you can see this from the back. And of course, when you say that, you know people can't see it from the back. In fact, you're pretty sure people in the third row can't see it when you're doing that. And I have a feeling this may tie into kind of the fourth mistake that people make, but you tell me, what's the fourth trap that people fall into?
13:03 Jason Lapp
Oh, I could go on for days about those types of presentations. My fourth sort of takes us down a little bit different of a route from what's in the moment of presenting, and more into the idea of making sure you judge yourself with a feedback loop. So, I'm really big on this idea of, you know, and I think anybody who presents you need to rehearse ten times before you show up on stage, you have to get through all the ums and likes and you know, stalls in your voice and things that that you're going to do. But one of the biggest things, especially in today's world of video, is recording -- recording and getting feedback. And the reason I think feedback loops are important is that we all hate how we sound every single time. I get used to it because you do it a lot. But every time I look at a recording of myself on video these days, I'm like, oh, God, you know, I'm getting older, or you know, I don't like the tone of my voice, or I'm not talking fast enough, or I said um too many times. And the challenge is that nobody wants that feedback. But that I actually think is the killer thing for you to do in order to improve your presentations. Because of content, you will find out in the room quickly if people are dozing off, if they're picking up their phones, if they're talking to somebody, you can see that. They're not necessarily online, but I think there are other ways that you need to make sure you measure yourself so that you don't just rinse and repeat with content that's not great.
14:34 Ian Altman
Sure, sure. And I think that what's fascinating is, as a speaker, one of the things that we'll often do is we'll put a camera facing the audience. And so, after a session, I'll look at where and how did the audience react in different parts of a talk. Now, one of the biggest challenges that we've had in the world of the pandemic and Zoom was, yeah, there's an opportunity to get some of that feedback, but not as real-time if everyone's camera isn't on. As someone who likes to use humor in my talks, it's tough to get a sense of how a joke landed or the timing of it in that environment, and I will tell you that over the last year and a half, two years, when I look at recordings now, especially in Zoom sessions, and even in podcast interviews, I find those little stop words that uhs and ums coming back in and I think to myself, where did that come from? And it just comes from not speaking at 75 events a year and all of a sudden speaking fewer, I guess. It's fascinating to see. I do want to get your thoughts on this idea of, one of the things I see often is reps or marketing people with the best of intentions, basically employ what I'm guessing is Wesson oil and a shoehorn to get all the content they can onto the slide. So, they're just trying to cram as much stuff on there, and it's almost like they couldn't possibly go to another slide. So, they got to get everything on this one slide. I just think to myself, what compels you to do this because one of the things as a speaker that I'm always conscious of is that when you put up a slide with words on it, the audience can either listen to you or read everything on the slide, but they can't do both at the same time. So, how do you help people not have that vision of everything, and all the content is thrown upon one slide? It's like, oh, yeah, my presentation today is really efficient. I only have four slides for the hour, you look at the first slide, you're like, it's going to take 40 minutes for someone to read that content, and they're going to need a magnifying glass. So how do you deal with that?
16:50 Jason Lapp
Yeah, I mean, that's a massive problem. I don't know if it's the insecurity of the speaker, the presenter. I think it's challenging. The design principles around what you and I have been talking about are, there's probably a less is more type of logic that needs to be put in place every time you're creating a slide. There's some structural stuff in terms of like, where's the position? What does it look like? There's a lot of good reading you can do to find that stuff out. We built some of these features into our product. And sometimes we have presenters or users that don't like the product, or they push back, and they say, I can't get enough on the page. And now I went from trying to present on one slide to having four slides. But it's sort of the point, which is you shouldn't have one slide. If the conversation is four slides, have four slides. Use the content and get a better structure around it. But the reality is, you're absolutely right. Like if you're putting that much content on the page, there's no way you're going to get past slide one in 10 minutes, and your audience is going to lose attention really, really fast.
17:54 Ian Altman
Yeah, and I think that one of the things that people often overlook is this notion that, and it's one of the things that I love about the Beautiful.AI platform is, very often someone will say, well, I want to emphasize this piece, so and then they start going through the color wheel and like, oh, I'm going to make this one purple, and this one green. And it's like, it looks like just a Technicolor nightmare. Instead of in your tool, you say, okay, I want to add this in, and I click on the bold tool, which is really just another way of saying, I want to emphasize this, and it picks the color that's aligned with your branding, and you can't pick a different color. And if you say no, no, I want to make this bigger. It says, no, you really don't want to do that. And to me, it's almost like you've got, when I'm using it, and people on my team are using Beautiful.AI, it's like we have that little angel on our shoulder going, yeah, no, you really don't want to do it that way. And it's almost like it prevents us from making these stupid mistakes. And, you have the ability in the platform to reinforce all of the branding and have consistent branding, so now, if people in the field say, oh, I need to add a slide that has these three elements to it, they pick from their template that's got all the right design elements. They pick the right structure from you guys. And now when they create the slide, it's going to tie in with the branding, it's going to tie in with the messaging, and if I understand correctly if six months from now, the organization gets acquired and their branding changes, you can just change it back in the core engine, and it ripples through all the other presentations. Isn't that right?
19:31 Jason Lapp
Well, first off, I'm excited that you're a user of the product. You're clearly a salesperson for me as well because you know it really well. There are a few things that we should unpack in your comments there. I think the design principles that we built into the product were intentional. We call it Beautiful.AI because we created this design AI that gives you that structure. It's meant to be your guard rails and keep you from doing things that are silly mistakes. It's meant to make it so that you don't end up with 15 different fonts, ten different colors, you know, boxes all over the place. It will stop you; the product will. And that can be frustrating because you've got to learn how to how to reuse it. But when you're using the product, it's really this mindset of okay, well, they understand design. I want to be a creator, and I think we have this challenge today is that literally everybody wants to be a creator, whether that's, you know, in their personal life or in their work-life, and we don't have tools to do it. And the larger issue is that we all want to be creators, but less than 1% of us are designers. I'm a sales guy. I'm not a designer. Mitch, who created Beautiful.AI, he's a designer, and he gets it, and he could do this all day long. What I need is structure and orientation so that I can take all these great ideas I have and create visual stories without having to worry about that.
20:58 Ian Altman
Well, and Jason, the funny part of this is that I often say when it comes to creativity, if I was drawing a stick figure, it would probably be missing a limb. So, if left to my own devices, I'm going to create stuff that is far from beautiful. It's going to be ugly and hideous. And I look back at presentations I used to make, and as a professional speaker, I had engaged and contracted with designers to design slide decks, and we've actually taken those same decks that we professionally designed years ago, and in a matter of minutes, repurposed them in Beautiful.AI and made it so that now if I need to add something on the fly for a presentation, it used to look like here's this beautifully designed presentation, and then here's a slide that was designed using the Fisher-Price, my first presentation toolkit. And it was just like it looked awful. It looked like a kindergarten student had created that one slide in the presentation. And now, when I add something, it looks great now. It's also because it's all shared, and because it's all cloud-based, someone on my team can say, hey, I sent you added this slide. I picked a different image that I thought better suited that part of the presentation. I'm like, oh, Emma, thanks so much. But it's something that usually I see tools, and I think yeah, I don't need this thing. And when I first started working with Beautiful.AI, and I won't make it clear to people, I'm not an affiliate. I don't get paid by you guys. There's nothing like that. I'm a fan of the tool. This is why when someone said, Hey, you want to have Jason on the podcast, I'm like, absolutely, because I actually use their stuff, and I like it. We have about a 50-page document that documents the entire Same Side Selling methodology, and we created it in Beautiful.AI in a matter of; I don't remember how long it was, but it was less than a day from the beginning to end. And people look at and say, oh, this is beautiful. The design on this is incredible. And I'm like, yeah, we just used your platform to build it.
23:08 Jason Lapp
I think what you're talking about is really interesting. There's the need for, you know, having a marketing and creative design team is still absolutely there. I think, you know, we're sort of an additive element to that that carries on great work beyond the creation of some of that stuff. So, there are absolutely times where Beautiful.AI is not going to step up to the plate and do that level of work that a professional designer can do just because of the fact that they've spent 20 years building the experience to use software to manipulate content to create really, really cool things. But I think what's interesting about what you're talking about is you said it earlier, which is sometimes your company goes through a brand change, or you release a new product, or you have a new series of ways of positioning, or your messaging. And the thing that we all experience is, well, what do I do with the old stuff? And if I'm really good at presenting with the old stuff, why would I sunset it? So, what Beautiful.AI does is it gives you a little bit more of a platform to control some of the content and start producing content as starting points. So, a lot of the time, I like to talk about when people ask me, how do you create a great presentation, and I'm not a guy who's going to start from a blank sheet. I don't want to have to figure out every element on the page. What I'd like is one, some inspiration, and then two, what we talked about earlier, which are design guardrails. And the combination of those two things, if you've given me inspiration and a starting point as a company, I can iterate and create really custom great content really, really fast. So, to your 50-page deck, that shouldn't take you two weeks. That should take you a couple of hours of manipulating content that you already started.
25:05 Ian Altman
Yeah, exactly. And the idea was, we already had this arc in the store. We already had the methodology. It was just a matter of how do we present this? Well, we want to show kind of like a flow chart. And then, of course, we're looking to Beautiful.AI. It's like, oh, you want something that's a flow diagram. Clink. Here it is. Where do you add an element? Oh, I click the add an element. Okay. Well, I want to emphasize this, oh, look, it's picking our branding colors, and it just made life so much easier for us. And so, it's really fantastic. I want to give a quick recap of everything we talked about. Before I do that, what's the best way for people to reach out to you and connect with you? I know that you and the folks are Beautiful.AI, have got a ton of resources for people.
25:47 Jason Lapp
Yeah, so through our websites is the easiest. If you want to see the product, it's free to trial. So, it's a good way to get your feet wet and check it out, which is Beautiful.AI. And then me personally, I'm Jason@Beautiful.ai. I love this conversation. I'd happily, you know, connect with individuals that they want to continue it.
26:12 Ian Altman
That's great. So let me give a quick 30-second recap of what I think are the key points from our session, and then I'll give you the opportunity for rebuttal to cover anything that maybe I missed. So, there are these traps, in essence, that people have when it comes to presentations. The first is this idea of consistent branding, and people kind of grow on their own on the side, and it hurts to erode the brand. The second point is that when you're presenting, you want to make sure that you've got the proper arc of the story mapped out. So, you've thought through that arc of the story and what your message is beginning, middle, and end. Where are conflicts? You can't just jump into a presentation. Think about it; there would never be a movie that anyone would pay to see that is a demo of your product. So, the idea is we want to make sure that we've got an arc of a story that creates some sort of interest. The third thing is visual images. So, we want to use things that are appropriate to your brand that is polished and professional. When you pick clipart or some images you happen to find online, it usually looks that way. It doesn't represent your brand as well as possible. And of course, if you're creating graphics, if you're creating information, and you're wondering, gee, can people read that? You already know the answer, and there's too much information on one slide. And the fourth piece is to make sure that we have that feedback loop so that you're actually getting feedback from other people. You're incorporating that in and constantly improving what it is that you're doing. So, Jason, what do I leave out? Did I leave anything important out?
27:39 Jason Lapp
I don't know. You've got a special talent, Ian. Very few people could summarize like that. I think you nailed it. I think I may be second a couple of things that you said. You know, when you're thinking about presentations, you should be thinking about them as entertainment and as a show. It needs to be different. If you're using slides, you know, they shouldn't be stuck. They should have a personal, custom touch to your audience. And there are so many tools out there right now that it's almost inexcusable for you to be doing things that, you know, you didn't take some time to actually, you know, build some nice video, some nice imagery, do a few things that are really simple these days because it does show to your customers that, you know, that it's who you are. And if you're not showing up that way, you know, it shows that you might be an uninspiring partner.
28:38 Ian Altman
That's you know, that's fantastic. I'm a big fan of the Beautiful.AI platform. We use it all the time and my whole team. It's not like we have someone who says, oh, I don't really like it. Everybody loves it. And the last thing I want people to consider is that when you are presenting, don't fall into the ADD trap of Axis Displacement Disorder. That's where you believe the axis of the Earth is shifted, and the world revolves around you. Make sure that all of your presentations have your client or audience as the center of attention and everything is centered around them. So, this has been the Same Side Selling podcast. Jason, thank you so much for joining me today. And we will see everybody on the next episode of the Same Side Selling podcast. Thanks again, Jason.