Developing products with the help of Confucius and Lester Freamon from the Wire


Tales from my entrepreneurial path from consulting to developing products, following the money and the meaning

This post belongs to a series. For the first two episodes you will need a special skill. You see, they have been written in Italian: the first one is on innovating in Europe and in the USA, the second about my choice to move to Germany. The latest episode – written in the language of the Bard – is called “My path to product”. This new episode has become a talk that I have give to the Berlin’s Product Camp and to Berlin’s 4 Hour Work Week Meetup.

Developing products with the help of Confucius and Lester Freamon from the Wire

Slides from my talk

You can find the content in form of slides.

Want to keep the slides? You can download them here.

Video of my talk

Here’s the video of the talk recorded at Betahaus in Berlin.

The talk last until 19:40 and after that you have the Q&A. After that some mysterious black and silent video. Maybe it’s a viral gimmick, most probably just a glitch.

The Post

Three and a half years ago I left my day job to start an independent consulting firm. I now have clients spread across all of Europe and make a living out of it. It pays rent in Berlin, travel and I’m able to save something every month. I’m pretty frugal, but I’m not missing any material comfort.

This is what success is to me: being in charge of my own lifestyle. (And this phrase call for a post of itself, but… focus padawan, focus!)

There is one thing that saved me in my dealings as a consultant: having my clients on a retainer agreement. Negotiating the rules, length and rates in the longer term has made my business sustainable.

I learned a ton of other things, but this is by far the most important one. Sitting down with my clients and spending time figuring out how to make a plan together is what keeps me sane and in business today.

I’m not just a consultant. Sometimes I am inspired by people or ideas that lead to a sort of creative collaboration. I don’t see this as consulting, but more of a partnership.

Through my clients I gain access to how traditional, established businesses work. Through the startups I get in on how small, nimble teams think about big problems. One job, the best of both worlds.

There’s even more: I get to teach startups how traditional businesses solve certain problems, and more often I invite traditional companies to adopt the ways of the startups.

Yay. Success all around. Everybody’s happy.

Sorry. This is getting boring. Let’s introduce what any good story needs: some obstacles to overcome. Let’s go back in time to see how I learned what I learned because, as Kierkegaard says, “Life can only be understood backwards: but it must be lived forwards.”

Flashback to previous times, when I thought I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t.

3+ years ago I signed a big client – that, for full disclosure, was also my former employer – and so my consulting company “La Fabbrica della Realtà” was born.
I had one big client. I took care of them, made sure they were always happy. I was often in their offices, always punctual in my deliveries.

I thought that the work of the consultant was just that: to make one client happy. And so I did.

This left me with some free time. In this time – instead on focusing on my consultancy business – I started to develop other projects.

If you’re an entrepreneur you see already where this is headed.

Yes! At some point something changed inside the organization of my client and my services were needed less regularly. I noticed, but did not act on it.

At some point I burned through what savings I had at the time, until I reached the climactic figure of 0 in my bank account. This was right after SXSW 2012, where I spent all my time pitching an idea to save the world, that would ultimately save neither the world nor myself.

Reaching zero didn’t mean that I was going to become homeless. I could have asked my family for help, I have friends around me that could have chipped in financially. I was never going to go hungry.

But I had to start to make some choices: cutting on nights out, avoiding restaurants, using all the groceries I had at home before going to get more, buying new groceries at the discount supermarket and billing them on a 60 day credit card.

There was something really good in all this. I felt a sense of loss: I lost my easygoing lifestyle, my careless let’s eat out and buy top grade groceries attitude. Did I mention I’m Italian? There is no limit to what I can spend on cooking ingredients. Fancy, imported and overpriced mozzarella di bufala? Give me more.

I finally felt hungry again. Hungry for the better mozzarella I couldn’t afford anymore, but also hungry for a rebound.

Hunger is a strong motivator. But you need to give it direction. Fortunately I have great friends, and the best advice came exactly from one of my friends and fellow entrepreneurs, Andrea Volpini.

For those of you who have seen The Wire, Andrea was like Lester Freamon, only way more zen. Lester’s the smart, seasoned detective that changes the scope of a drug investigation when he suggests to stop following the drugs and to start following the money.

It was with total calm that Andrea told me, “Matteo, you’re a consultant. This is where you make money, as a consultant. And right now your consulting business is not growing. Go back to working as a consultant and you will have solved the problem.”
So I did. My mission: win back past clients, find new clients.

I had found a new focus – following the money – and a new modus operandi: I would accept any consulting gig, even the ones I was not necessarily 100% qualified for, and I would also lower my rates to make my services more affordable for more clients.

Things were bad in the bank. But really well-aligned and organized in my brain.

Consultants sometimes need consultants. And fortunately I was able to convince some good friends to help me rebuild La Fabbrica della Realtà.

Daniela Berto is a designer, matchmaker and consultant. She started me off with the basics: she convinced me that I needed to apply to my business the same techniques that I apply to my clients.

I had used the Business Model Canvas for my clients, but had never applied it to my own business. So I drafted my Canvas. That was quite a moment. By answering each and every question that the Canvas required I was able to shed light on my business and start to see things clearly.

The Canvas of my business showed me I had a lot of potential I was not acting upon. How could I start to realize it?

I needed a website. I had borrowed the name La Fabbrica della Realtà – which is Italian for The Factory of Reality, by the way – from my blog.
I’ve been blogging on and off for more than 13 years and it seemed natural to use the name of my blog as a company name. But I hadn’t cared to build a website.

Why not? Well, at the time, I lacked the clarity I’d now gained after two years of consulting.

Building a website is a great way to understand your uncertainties. If you want to create a good website, you need to make hundreds of small decisions. And each of those decisions has ramifications.

I had to think about how to organize my services, what role to give to past projects. I needed to describe both visually and with words my bio, my vision, and what I had to offer. I had to collect case studies of all the work I’d done in the past.

I’m tremendously happy with the result. You can see it here.

Now, if you are following me with some attention you might ask: did the new website bring a lot of new business?
The answer may surprise you. My new website has not brought in a single new client. So, is the website a failure? Not at all. You see, each and every new prospect, referral or person I have pitched to directly has used my site to decide if they should hire me.

The typical call with a new client nowadays runs something like this: “Hey Matteo, my associate John Doe has a very high opinion of you and has suggested that I hire you. Oh, and then I saw your website and I’m very impressed. Would you…”

I feel so good when this happens. I think about how hard it was to understand what I was doing and to create a website as the tool of my relaunch. Now, seeing the fruit of all this work gives me a feeling of satisfaction I’ve never experienced before. It’s simply priceless.

One thing continued to elude me, though. In my website I could define my personal positioning very clearly and describe my offerings with a degree of confidence, but could not come up with a convincing description of the company itself.

How you describe a consultancy of one is… how you describe yourself. And this self branding problem is quite widespread.

More than six months after going online with the new website, and after many many drafts I finally could define what I do, not only in words – but as I love doing – with a little sketch:

La Fabbrica della Realtà is an innovation laboratory centered around people and ideas.

You have no idea how much work there is behind this definition.

Not only had I come up with a definition of my business, I had come up with one that aligns with my personal ethics. I’d come up with a credo that defines my goals in life.

All right. Finally I had solved the problem. I had won back my original clients, encountered some new clients, started making some money and was back on track. Now you may ask: why hadn’t I done all of this at the beginning, three and a half years ago, when I first started my business? Why hadn’t I begun with a stronger strategy, with a business website, etc.?

To respond I need to tell you a short story within my story.
I was walking around the European Maker Faire in Rome and I encountered a poster from Reggio Emilia’s Fab Lab. It read “Se faccio capisco”, translated “If I do, I understand.” It’s Confucius. It struck me like lightning. That’s exactly what had been happening to me. Confucius was speaking directly to me. What a feeling.

I needed to be doing to truly understand what was happening, to learn from what was happening I needed it to happen. It’s the doing that enables the understanding. Bingo!

Welcome to typical me. The title of this post says I’m going to discuss productizing, and 1850 words in… there’s still no mention of products. I’ll get there in just a few more paragraphs, promise!

Now that I know how my consulting business works, how I can expand it and to what degree I want it to grow (hint: not too big), my next big challenge is building a product!

We all know that consulting does not scale. You can increase the amount of hours you work, hire more associates and raise your hourly rates, but you’re always going to reach a limit.

There’s a problem: you see, I was an employee for 10+ years and I was trading my time for money. Then I became a consultant and I was still trading time for money. Products have eluded me for a long time, but now they are the perfect solution to my problem.

While looking for my own product I learned many many things. First of all I studied how others developed products and detailed my findings in “My Path to Product”. But more recently I came across three principles that I call the three keys to product discovery.

The first key is expertise. When you look for products, look deep and close to your areas of maximum expertise. Ideally you should already know every stakeholder in the market of your product, all the influencers and – whenever possible – know the clients by name. Why? Building products is hard, the closer you are to your area of specific expertise the better you will be at gathering feedback, understanding your clientele and being able to market to prospects.

My second key is ease. For anyone coming from a guilt-based value system “ease” is a negative value. I was taught in school that if something is easy, this means that you’re doing the wrong thing. If something is easy then you need to up the anti or change the topic altogether. Products don’t work that way. You need to find something that comes easy to you because you need to do it a lot, rehearse it a lot, re-work it a lot, so it might as well be something that comes easy to you. In particular, look for stuff that comes strangely easy to you and hard to other people.

My third key is passion. You must have fun dealing with your product, you need to love your customer base, you must enjoy spending time with them, you need to be passionate about how they use your product, and admire the final products that they will build through yours.

So these are my three keys. You might ask if they have been effective in unlocking my own product. They have!

It’s Presentation Hero, a presentation training course that promises to save the world from bad presentations!

In the end I decided on the infamous info-product. I looked back at my last 15 years of work and found one common thing in all of my work engagements: presentations. As a “self-taught-everything” I self-taught myself presentations a long time ago, and now I want to tell you what I’ve learned by crafting presentations for the last 10+ years.

I believe I can really change how you think about, structure, design and deliver your next presentation with my course. And I’m so happy to report that not only many individuals already trust Presentation Hero, but quite a few companies and agencies are approaching me to deliver Presentation Hero to their associates and employees.

If you want to learn how to craft better presentations, how to deliver them in the boardroom and in the conference hall, become more skilled and confident and increase your personal brand I invite you to keep in touch by signin up to my free newsletter.

Along the path to developing Presentation Hero I have found a ton of useful resources. I wanted to end by sharing some of them.

Following Patrick McKenzie (Patio11 here and on Hacker News) has provided me with invaluable resources. If you don’t yet, I recommend you subscribe to the Kalzumeus Podcast, a collection of miscellaneous knowledge on the art and science of creating service businesses. He’s also a consultant turned product guy and you can learn a ton by following his journey.

I also suggest watching some of his presentations, in particular this one delivered at MicroConf. Even though I wish he had me as a coach for those slides…

Which leads me to MicroConf. The great thing about this conference is that you don’t need to attend it. The best talks are online. Just set aside the appropriate amount of time and watch those videos. Add them to your queue, save them to pocket. They are worth your time.

Patrick gives you a ton of advice related to software products, but in this case I am developing an info-product, so I also looked for more specific advice and I found it by starting to follow the blog and podcast of Nathan Barry. Nathan has written a nice walk-through of product launches called Authority. The book is an okay resource, it won’t change your life. But do yourself a favor: follow his blog, get on his email list. They are all great free resources worth following.

There’s a bunch of technical knowledge that goes into creating an info-product, especially one that involves videos. I’m not going to talk about that because I think it’s too specific. One thing that every product needs is marketing, and I get my marketing advice these days mostly from Noah Kagan. Again. Get on the blog, subscribe to his email list, and you will not be disappointed.

I think that it’s through Noah that I first encountered Brian Dean. He’s the mind behind the most brilliant SEO blog I’ve ever seen. It’s called Backlinko. Brian provides super actionable, instruct-able articles where you learn how to do only the most effective SEO. But it does not stop at that: he masters a content marketing formula that has changed the way I publish my blog. Also in this case, subscribing to his list is highly suggested.

As I researched the best platform to publish an online course I came across a service called Fedora. Yes, it’s the same name of the Linux distribution, but in this case it’s a SaaS online course system that lets you upload your course materials, manage payments and email your users.

There are many other platforms out there but none will be as focused on acquiring new users. I highly recommend it.

Wrapping up. I don’t know how my product will evolve. I don’t know how successful it will be. I still can’t write a post like “How I fired all my clients and started partying 24/7 while making a passive income from my presentation training.” I really don’t think that the objective here is the passive income or the 24/7 party either…

What I can tell you is that my success or failure is dependent 90% on my strength, abilities and resources, maybe 9% on pure, condensed luck, but 1% of my success or failure depends on you. How do you react to this content? Do you want to follow up, does it inspire you to comment, to forward it to other people? Does it drive you to know more about me, to singup to my presentation email list?

Success has many facets. One part of my success would be represented by you following my advice and discovering a new resource. I don’t get kickbacks, but I establish my usefulness. I know that the path is long and the rewards are waiting for those that diligently do the work.

This is why I get on with mine, so that in the future I can tell you about my “success story”.

Thanks for reading this far. Hope you enjoyed.

How to start a presentation: crafting the perfect first slide

How to start? That’s the main question when it comes to presentations. It’s very challenging to create a first slide that will get your audience’s attention and convey the message of your presentation. I want to show you how to make the best out of it and how to use it to deliver your message effectively.

how to start.008

The First Slide

You have lived this scenario a thousand times: you enter a conference or meeting room, unsure if it’s the right one, glance at the screen to see if the slide that is being projected aligns with the topic of the presentation that you are expecting. Based on that you take a seat.

Or maybe you’ve been on the internet a few times and have seen the first slide of presentations being used as a “preview image” on social media, inviting you to click and see the whole presentation.

You may even know (and love) Slideshare, the most popular slide hosting site on the web: here the first slide is used to invite you to click, like and download a presentation deck.

You have spent time waiting for a presentation to start looking at a first slide, wondering if the presenter would be any good, wondering who they were and what to expect.

The Jobs of the First Slide

From the cases that I just outlined it’s easy to understand that the first slide has many jobs, many functions, many purposes. First of all it needs to convey clearly the message of your presentation. It can do that – in the traditional template – with a Title and Subtitle. At least this is how PowerPoint displays a “title slide”. But those are not fields that you must fill in.

In fact there are more important objectives that a first slide can help you accomplish: depending on the setting you should have your name or your twitter handle in the first slide. In some settings it would be better to have both.

Sometimes it helps to display a 3 word bio. Oftentimes you also represent a company so your logo also belongs somewhere on this first slide.

Some people even feature the location and the date of the presentation. Is this information really useful or just filler?

It’s easy to have an overcrowded first slide that – while trying to accomplish all the objectives – fails miserably at conveying any useful message.

Focus, focus, focus

My solution is to focus on one objective first. The most important one is usually the title of the talk. It’s great if your title goes well with an image. Image and title are then the core element of your first slide.

Once you have a powerful title with a powerful visual you can think about the output format of your slides. When I’m presenting at a conference I always display my twitter handle and a website as part of the first slide.

If your output format will be paper or a slide sharing platform you can have a super clean title slide with just a title and visual and devote a second slide to you, your contacts and your bio. If you are presenting in a more formal environment you may want to skip the social contacts and focus on your name and bio a bit more.

The important thing is that your core message comes across clearly.

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How my struggling business was saved by Confucius and Lester Freamon from the Wire – Slides and Video

Hello redditors and welcome to my humble blog.

Slides anyone?

I love slides so it’s my pleasure to provide you with my latest talk in Slideshare format. I know the cool kids are on SpeakerDeck, but I kind of like standards.

Want to keep the slides? You can download them here.

Video here!

Here’s the video of the talk recorded at Betahaus in Berlin.

The talk last until 19:40 and after that you have the Q&A. After that some mysterious black and silent video. Maybe it’s a viral gimmick, most probably just a glitch.

Did you like this content? If you did I have a neat way for you and me to keep in touch. It’s an ultra focused, low traffic, non markety email list. You can signup using the form below.

Want more presentation tips and techniques?
Sign up to Presentation Hero right now!
Every two weeks you will receive a personal, insightful email on presentations from me personally.
These emails will include: presentation tips & advice, free exclusive videos, invite only webinars, bonus content, special deals & discounts on Presentation Hero training and much more!
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If you’re looking for the full post head to Reddit.

How to connect a Laptop to a Projector while being really really ridiculously good looking

cover_projectorI had so much fun preparing this little video and I’m so enthusiastic to share it with you. What you see here is the demonstration that a boring topic, doesn’t need to make a boring presentation. I give you “How to connect a Laptop to a Projector while being really really ridiculously good looking”. How good looking? You’ll learn in a few seconds.

Did you enjoy the video? Then you should make sure to download the shortcuts cheat sheet and keep it for the next time you need to connect your laptop to a projector.


In this video we’re going to talk about how to connect a laptop to a projector while being really, really ridiculously good-looking.

I mean how good-looking I think you can be.

This good looking at the beginning of your presentation. Now, what I see normally is a presenter hunched over their computer trying to solve something technical and trying to figure out how to get the image on the projector.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

First of all, don’t panic! I will get a little bit jargon and a little bit technical but I’ve put together all the advice that it’s in this presentation also in a PDF document that you can download at this URL: the URL is

And don’t panic about the URL, I’ll repeat it later.

Now let’s go to Apple. Apple is used by a majority of presenters maybe because when you connect a projector it just works, but you need to know a few more things.

First of all there’s two display modes: mirrored and arranged. Which of the two should you use for presentations?

Well let’s start with arranged. Now, arranged is a display mode where you basically have like two screens and you can have two different images on the two screens. It means that your projector is like the ideal continuation to the right of your current display.

Now, this is great because you can have two different images. So on your laptop you want to have the presenter display in this case using Keynote, you get a display like this.

You get the current slide, you get the next slide, and the elapsed time from the beginning of your presentation. And this is really awesome for you not to bore your audience not to go over time.

Now, what you audience sees in full screen is just the current slide.

Now, with Keynote it can happen that your presenter screen is displayed on the projector. Don’t panic! Think about the X-men and press “X” and you’re going to switch that presenter screen between your laptop and the projector.

Now, how about the other display mode? The other display mode is mirrored and mirrored is awesome for demos. Whatever you see on your laptop screen is what your audience sees through their projector.

Alright, now we have everything set up but how do you switch between those two modes? It’s really easy. You just use Command+F1 to switch between those two modes. Remember the shortcut, you don’t need to go into the control panel, just press Command+F1.

Now to get your slide full screen in Keynote, and Keynote is made by Apple. Apple is the user experience company, you just have to press Command then the Alt key and then “P,” and by the way, the Alt key shouldn’t be called Alt because it says Alt on the key but it’s called Option key in Apple jargon. So Command+Option+P and don’t call it Alt because every time you call it Alt this man spends another day and the white row, alright, think about this man.

Now if you’re using PowerPoint, the combination to put your slides full screen its easier I think. It’s Command Shift and Return. So Command Shift Return and after you do that think about why you’re using PowerPoint on Mac and maybe if you have an explanation to why you’re using PowerPoint on a Mac leave it in the comments please because you know you have Keynote and it works perfectly on a Mac. Why should use PowerPoint?

Anyhow, moving on, probably you are not going to use PowerPoint you’re not going to use Keynote to give your presentation to deliver your presentation because you care about how your slides look and in that case you’re going to use a PDF. If you’re using a PDF, use Command+Control+F to have it for screen.

Now, in preview on a Mac you have a mode that it’s called slideshow that is your enemy because your slides will advance automatically. So always use Command+Control+F and go full screen.

Great, now let’s go to the people that think different and they’re using Windows to present something. Now, Windows gives you a lot of control and with control comes confusion. You have way too many display modes, let’s look at them one by one so when you connect a projector to a Windows laptop what happens is that you get that first display mode which is Disconnected. So You Think “oh, nothing works alright, thanks Microsoft.”

The second mode is Duplicated. So we just went through the Mac display modes, so it’s like mirrored. So it’s great for demos.

The third mode is Extend, so you get like in the arranged mode. You get to two different images between what you see on your laptop and what it’s on the projector.

And finally there is what I call the panic attack mode: Projector Only. This is when your laptop goes dark and your panic attack goes a hundred percent. Now, there is one key that allows you to switch between all these modes, and it’s Windows+P and works with all the latest versions of Windows, but we all know we all have a different version of Windows.

So, what if Windows+P doesn’t work? Well, you can try with Fn+F4. It works for Samsung and also for HP laptops. Or you can try with Fn+F5, which is supposed to work with Acer and if that doesn’t work try with Fn+F7 which is the designated key for IBM Lenovo laptops, and finally if using a Dell go for Fn+F8.

Now, similarly you gonna wanna have your slides full screen, and how do you start your PowerPoint show with grace? Just one key F5. You can really see that Microsoft is doing something for people who do presentations. A really simple shortcut to get your slides full screen, beautiful, F5. Remember this one.

And if you’re using a PDF probably you’re opening it in Adobe Acrobat and there the combination is Control+L.

Now, whatever platform you’re using sometimes it’s useful to temporarily blank the display, and to do that you press “B” for black and… you guessed it “W” for white and your display goes completely black and completely white. I’m not gonna do it here because in a video it looks really creepy. And don’t forget the power cord, your audience doesn’t wanna see a low battery warning.

Now, I have a question for you: did you already forget all the shortcuts? Because for sure, I did.

But fortunately you know that there’s a document and in this document you will find all the shortcuts and the explanation to all the jargon. So if you head to you are gonna start looking like this when your presentation starts. You will look really ridiculously good looking and confident and at ease. You know what will also make you look really good looking and at ease? It’s if you have great structure, if you have terrifically design slides and, if you have confident delivery. And this is exactly what we teach at Presentation Hero.

Presentation Hero is the most advanced and innovative presentation training system and I invite  you to discover it. First of all, through these shortcuts at

Thank you so much for watching.

Need better communication skills? Use your doubts to craft better presentations!

Imagine the following scenario: you have been recently hired by a company and your new boss invites you to his birthday party in his house along with the rest of the team. Then you wonder “what should I get him?” As soon as you leave the office, you head to the closest mall and start looking for the perfect present to make a good impression.

After looking for hours for the perfect gift and walking into every single store you found in the mall, you finally get him the best present you could think of. You get home with the beautifully wrapped present and then you start wondering “What if he doesn’t like it?”, “What if he already has one?”, or worse “What if someone else gives him the same present?”.


We’ve all been in a similar situation before. Any creative process (like coming up with the best sales strategy, creating a beautiful web design, etc.) involves the same feeling. That’s why the worst moment in any creative process is completion. When you finish your work this is the moment when your creative drive, your creative energy stops propelling you.

New forces come into play. The creative right brain has less energy and the analytical left brain is free to… well – honestly – get in the way.

work that is finished, yet not shipped to an audience is a liability for the left brain. There is no proof that it can have legs, there is no demonstration of its validity. For how much the creative brain may be happy about the product, the left brain requires hard data: number of views, amount of sales in dollars, number of retweets. The analytical brain wants facts, figures, feedback and will not settle until it gets some.

In emotional terms this translates in doubts: you start to doubt the validity of your whole presentation, because it has yet to meet its audience. You feel that, without the validation of real world feedback, what you have done is worthless.

Doubt is a great and powerful creative tool: it allows you to go back to editing your presentation with greater attention and focus on your goal.

But the lack of validation can be dangerous as it puts you in the position of devaluing the work you have done.

As a skillful presenter and professional you should use your doubts but not get overwhelmed by them.

How do you check your fuel and make sure that your doubts are founded?

You can always get early feedback. But getting feedback in a vacuum can be an issue… So you need to create the right conditions so that your test audience can better help you refine your presentation.

You see, they are not your target audience. They are not in an auditorium or a meeting room, but in your kitchen or your cubicle. They are not surrounded by their peers but have only you in front. Give them some pointers about the setting of your presentation before you start your best rehearsal.

Another opportunity to get feedback is sharing some bits of your presentation on social media. Create a teaser deck made of 3 or 4 slides. Feature a sample of your content in those slides, or even just underline the questions that you will answer in your talk.

The fact is… I know that the only real feedback is the one that comes from the market, the only way I can value my output is when it is in front of a real live audience.

In any case, it comes a moment when you have to stop believing your doubts. You must save the final version of your presentation, seal the sequence of your slides and concentrate on rehearsing.

24 hours before your presentation, stop listening to your doubts and start believing that you did your absolute best.

Want more presentation advice for free? Subscribe to Presentation Hero right now.

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These emails will include: presentation tips & advice, free exclusive videos, invite only webinars, bonus content, special deals & discounts on Presentation Hero training and much more!
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Visual notes from the TV Hackday ’14 in #Berlin

Not too many startup events in Berlin have a cool website, are hosted in a real tv studio (complete with pro cameras and a green screen), are financed with the TV tax and are held mostly in German. The TV Hackday 2014 was such an event. Without further ado here are my visual sketched notes.

Click or tap on the image to get a bigger version

Click or tap on the image to get a bigger version

Presentation tips from the pros: Gary Vaynerchuk @garyvee on storytelling

What I’m going to invite you to do here requires a bit of time.

Maybe more time than the average blog post.

Bear with me because there might also be a great advantage in it for you. A lot of presentations tips along the way and a special bonus at the end.

What I want to do is analyze a great talk with you. I want to study it with you and understand what we can learn from it.

How much time should you set aside? Well you will need to watch the talk first and then read the post. The talk is 16 minutes long and this blog post takes 7 minutes to read.

It’s a lot to ask in this fast paced world. But, actually, the talk is just about this topic: how do you get your message across, when everybody has no time? How fitting.

This is a first, and to debut this new format I’ve chosen to analyze a talk by Gary Vaynerchuk – Gary Vee for his friends. He’s a best-selling book author, entrepreneur and energetic public speaker.

Let’s start with title of the talk: How to storytell in a Fast Paced Word. Quite fitting for anyone interested in becoming a Presentation Hero, isn’t it?

Included in this post there is an extra bonus: a presentation storytelling toolbox that will teach you how to be exactly like Gary Vee. Click to get it now!

Here’s the video of the talk from YouTube. Watch it now!

The talk is quite compact. Gary Vee chose to use the whole time to make one major point: context should drive our content. Our understanding of the different ways we interact online on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest should drive the way we produce content for these platforms.

This point, the core takeaway, arrives 8 minutes into the presentation.

Gary uses a well proven device: he underlines that he is about to deliver his main takeaway, that this is the highest point of his presentation and then drops the core message in an articulate yet simple way.

“Quality storytelling always wins” he starts. After a bit he goes on: “all we need to do is one thing” and then he adds “this is the smartest thing I am going to say, so just listen to this one statement”.

Only then he drops the core message: “99% of the people are looking at social networks as distribution” instead “we have to start to respect the context and the nuances of [each social network]“ because they are not just distribution platforms.

To arrive to this point he has gone through many moments. He opened with his thesis by braking it down in simple points.

First of all he clears the context: we need to stop storytelling like it’s 2007, it’s now 2014. The speed of innovation is ever-increasing and we need to step up our game.

Before going on explaining his world view he tells something about himself. He doesn’t need to brag or recite his bio: he gives us a few pointers to the elements of his career and his personality that are most related to the topic of attention and storytelling.

We are at the second minute and he has already delivered us a map of the way (we are going to talk about attention) and his perspective on it (he is obsessed with the problem). That’s were he shows us that he is a total storytelling pro. At minute number two we are already hooked. How does he go on?

He goes on with his thesis.

“Quality storytelling always wins”: you can always count on how we respond to story, because relating to stories is a human quality. This was true in the past, but will also be true in the future.

A great, reassuring, calming statement. But Gary is not calm at all. He knows that there is no story without a bad guy, no hero without an enemy, no talk without a problem to solve.

Here’s the problem:

Speed of consumption is accelerating and attention is diminishing. Gary is very physical on stage and simulates the gesture of flicking really fast on a vertical timeline on an imaginary phone. He also paces back and forth. This can be disturbing, but you can tell that it’s in his nature. He’s driven, spontaneous in this gesture, so you are more keen to accept it from him than from other speakers.

It’s not that long form, slower, movie-like storytelling is at an end. But the speed of social media requires also new ways of thinking. Gary is spot on: not only he believes that slower storytelling is not dead, he is using it in an excellent way. He eases the audience into following through his 16 minutes long presentation.

He’s involving the audience from time to time by asking them questions. He asks for a show of hands a few times. In these occasions he gets to know the room a bit better. But in one particular occasion he is able to make his point more personal for the audience. He asks: “who of you nowadays is actually annoyed when someone calls them on the phone”. He goes on to define our current obsession for control of our time.

He’s getting close to delivering is high point when he frames his talk with a great quotable phrase: “Marketers ruin everything”, they over-analyze and overuse any media until it does not provide any benefit. Marketers have ruined banner ads and email marketing in the past and they are currently ruining social media.

All this build up brings him to minute 8 where he drops the core message. He then elaborates on it, explaining how each of our social platforms require a different mindset.

That you should use them to start conversations that have the sole purpose of being conversations on that media, that the idea of posting the same thing everywhere is wrong, because social media is not a distribution channel.

Enough with the problem. The solution is provided straight away: bring value in the context. Analyze the context and bring value to your audience, engage what Gary calls the “emotional attention”. Give your audience what they expect.

This is just one part of the solution: you are providing your audience with what they want. But how about what you – the marketer or the brand – want?

At minute number 13 Gary talks for the first time of “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”, his book. The pitch comes in quite naturally. His book contains the second part of the solution.

The “jab” is the native content that drives the emotional attention, the “right hook” is the content we want to provide our audience. If you want to make your pitch, first provide a ton of value. For every “pitch”, provide at least three times the value. You get it? Three jabs to every hook.

Now we are the apex of the energy. But how does Gary continue?

He provides us with something very practical that we can apply. We are now convinced that “the context of the room changes the way you story tell” and if we are lucky we will apply this new knowledge starting tomorrow. We might as well change our content and social media strategy based on this talk.

16 minutes, 3000 words, that is an impressive 187 words per minute, a lot of body language and not a single slide. This is how Gary Vaynerchuk drives his point across and home.

He knows that the presentation is not only for his live audience. That Behance is going to make a very good recording of this talk and that it is going to be picked up by many different outlets across many months.

The talk was posted in February. It was featured in an article posted in April. I encountered in July and now I am sharing it again in September.

It has collected around 80K views in this time. Gary even uses it on his site on the page where he advertises his availability for speaking engagements.

This is one of those talks that provide at the same time a great deal of value and are a great promotional tool.

In this case this talk serves even another purpose: it has a great storytelling structure. Through this strong structure:

  • you get to know the topic,
  • you get to know the presenter,
  • there is interaction between the audience and the presenter,
  • he drops his core idea,
  • this helps him make a point and arrive at the final problem,
  • the final problem has the solution in the book pitch,
  • but you don’t need to “buy” anything, you can just apply the takeaway and you’re good to go.

All that Gary says is also totally applicable to presentations. The social networks in this case are more like the different rooms: a meetup, a meeting room, a hall at a conference. And the emotional content and value is what we always need to provide first and foremost, because they can be the vehicle of our pitch.

One thing is to analyze somebody else’s work, another thing is to apply this knowledge to our own presentations. I’ve learned this all too well in the last years. This is why I’ve put together a very special presentation and video that will teach you how to master presentation structure in just 10 minutes.

Are you willing to invest another 10 minutes of your time? The prize is grand: you can become great storytellers just like Gary Vee.Click here if you want me to deliver the free presentation storytelling toolbox to you.

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When does your next presentation really begin?

Presentation Hero has just begun its journey.

We’ve reached 100 subscribers! (Actually it’s already over 130).  In email marketing terms this number may seem small, even irrelevant, but what I see is something different, it’s a beginning. In February this conversation did not exist. The idea of saving the world from bad presentations was still in the closed quarters of my hard drive and you, well, were undisturbed by yet another training product.

next presentation.010


This beginning is like the beginning of any presentation.  Let me explain: right now I am sending breadcrumbs around the internet inviting the world to discover more about Presentation Hero.

This is like inviting attendees to your next meeting or sending tickets to registrants of a conference.

Not convinced yet? Read on.

Do you think that your presentation actually begins when you pick up the microphone, display your first slide and start talking? Well, in my opinion it starts way earlier.

Your presentation can exist only in the eyes of your audience. Before that time, while it’s locked inside your hard drive, it can do do no harm and no good.

But how does “first contact” with the audience happen? The medium can be as diverse as it gets.

It may be a flyer at a community center, it may be an Outloook invite to a meeting, it may be a conference website where you are listed as a speaker, it may be a cool looking paper invitation sent out to a selected elite.

It may be a presentation so important that the invitation goes viral and is subject to speculation – this happens when Apple invites the press for a new event.

Your invitation may appear on a banner ad, inside a newsletter.

You may present yourself with just a name. That is great if you are Seth Godin or Al Gore. You may introduce the title of your talk, and it better be good. You may be part of the program of a conference with a short bio and a brief description of your talk.

These materials set the expectation for your presentation. Your audience has found and maybe even noticed those breadcrumbs that you have spread around. Or maybe not at all.

Maybe they are looking at your first slide, right before you start talking, and this is how they learn something about what is going to happen.  Maybe they have no expectations and are ready to daydream, check their cellphone, chat with their neighbor.

Your presentation may be a blast. You could captivate everyone from the way you say “hello”. But in most cases you need to build momentum in advance.You need to build interest, expectations and give to your audience bigger and better breadcrumbs – maybe even a slice of the cake.

You are always in control of the message: if you are calling the meeting you should be able to craft a good subject, an interesting agenda, clear timing and objectives.

If someone else is organizing, you can still contribute with the title and, maybe, with a description of your talk. You can communicate also with the kind of portrait you use for the conference materials.

All these assets lead to the level of expectation and attention that your audience will have when you say “hello”. They determine the level of attention and engagement of your audience in the first 60 seconds of your presentation.

After the early introduction – made of the breadcrumbs we have talked about, there is another type of introduction. 

The immediate introduction may be the organizer introducing you. And introductions don’t even end there. You could consider that the first 60 to 120 seconds of your talk as a third introduction.

Most everyone attending will listen to you at least for the first 30 seconds.Probably everyone will glance at what you are projecting on screen at least once.Make those moments count, design those first slides with craft because they are crucial to the success of your talk.

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The 16 questions you must answer when you prepare a talk or a presentation

A guide for entrepreneurs and freelancers

In a summit with another 100 speakers it’s hard to get noticed. You need to stand out in a world where conferences are multiplying like crazy, time slots are becoming increasingly short and programs are more and more crammed with talks.


Occasionally you see a unicorn, a great presenter, with a great story and powerful visuals. Oftentimes you linger in the gray zone of the competent, well informed, content rich, but not so good presenters.

Two approaches

In my opinion there are just two ways of approaching a presentation.

You could do your best and hope to get better with time. Your competition may be as good as you, worse than you or way better. You start from your level and by learning one small thing at each conference you may get better in time. Your competition may be on a similar journey and reach and overtake your level at any time.

Either that or you could study really hard. This is where it gets interesting for me and where I can provide you with a ton of value.

Oh, did you just disconnect when you read the words “study really hard”? Yes, you’re busy. Yes, you may even have some nice presentation books somewhere at home or at the office. You may have been reading some Godin, some Presentation Zen, you may know that Nancy Duarte exists (and kicks ass). You may even know of this or that coach, of a good webinar. But you just haven’t got the time for all that. Right: you need to focus on product, team, growth. You need to find investors. No time to improve your presentation skills.

sell courses so I will tell you that the best thing you can do is train. But I sense that maybe you would prefer to have something quick and dirty. Maybe a checklist that you can go through.

All right: just because you’re so nice, here is a list of 16 questions that you can ask yourself to make it look like you studied really hard. Yes, it’s called cheating, and I’m your partner in crime today.

That feeling

Before we go to the 16 questions, allow me to go visit your mind for a second. You and I need to look together at what happens in your brain when you get the news that you are going to be presenting.

Ready? The first thing that happens has nothing to do with business. You are a serious, talented professional, but you are still a human being. This is why at the beginning of your presentation process there is a feeling. A feeling that you know all too well. It can be summarized with the same “Oh, shit!” that you used to say to yourself when your teacher called you to speak in front of class.

Yes, even though you are a grown up now, you still feel like you have been called by the teacher. Even if a meeting with X Fund or talking a Y Conference is a great opportunity, you still fear it and – instinctively – resist it. That’s fine. Let’s embrace the fear and move on.

What to talk about

When this first sensation subsides you are tasked with resolving an initial conflict:

  • on one hand as an business person you know exactly what you want to pitch: your latest product, your offering, your strategy, the way of the future!
  • on the other hand you remember the last time that you were in the audience when someone was just pitching/pitching/pitching. You don’t want to bore the eyeballs out of the orbits of our audience.

Now you know that you need to find an angle, you need to figure out: “what am I gonna talk about?”

This usually leads to desperation and hope that – while showering the day before the talk – you will get some sort of insight about what to talk about.

It’s doesn’t need to be that way. Whenever you need to give a presentation all you need is this process made of 16 questions. Once you answer them you are all set to give your presentation.

Bonus: Download a free checklist that will show you how to best answer these 16 questions the next time you need to prepare a presentation.

1. Who is my audience?

Think long and hard about your audience. If you don’t know them well and they are a limited number spend some time researching information about them. If the audience will be comprised of many people create a “persona” of the typical audience member. Try to understand what are their stakes. Why are they invited to the meeting? What are they trying to get from the day?

Yes. I am saying that you should, first of all, think like an audience member. Think about what an audience member would want to receive from a speaker.

Chances are the outcome that they are looking for is not even remotely connected to your goals. This is why you have a lot of work to do. But at least now you know in what direction you should work.

Aligning with the goals of your audience may seem counter-intuitive. But it will help you find a way to package your pitch in such a way that it does not look like a pitch.

Your job is to repackage your content, your ideas and your presentation in order for it to meet both your goals and the goals of your audience. You will need to compromise on the amount of sales speak that you use. And – probably – you will need to find some new, different topic to talk about that will peak the interest of your audience. This new topic will allow you, at the appropriate moment, to shine a light on your product and deliver the pitch.

How do you do that? Let’s get on with the questions to figure it out.

2. What is my audience expecting from me?

Are they even expecting you? Do they even know who you are? Are you the highlight of the event and everyone knows you or are you a peripheral part of a bigger picture.

If your audience has expectations you should now define them and make sure to meet them. If your audience has no expectation then its your chance to define them: the good news is that you can surprise your audience if no expectation is set.

If your audience is expecting you to be a boring corporate drone you could surprise them (and get their benevolence and attention) by giving a short, engaging and fun talk.

If your audience is expecting a dry pitch you could tell them a transformative story rich of useful data and practical takeaways.

If your audience is expecting you to make their day, then you need to work really hard to align your presentation to their expectations.

3. What am I expecting from my audience? What are my desired outcomes?

If you’re there is not just to please an audience: you surely have an outcome in mind. Maybe you want your idea to spread or, more often, you need to sell yourself, your services or a product of yours.

If this is compatible with what the audience expects from you, go ahead and introduce those sales and self promotional elements in your presentation.

But caveat emptor, if your audience will react negatively to any pitch or sale tactic why don’t you use this occasion to establish a rapport that you will exploit at a later stage?

Sometimes the best way to sell is not to sell at all: start by earning the trust, attention and loyalty of the audience. You can end your presentation on a call to action that is only loosely related to your desired outcome. If you want them to buy your product why don’t you offer to send them your ebook in exchange of their email address? If you already have their contacts why don’t you leave them wanting more of you: the first meeting has been about education, in the next one you will have more of your pitch.

4. What language and visual style is my audience expecting?

You know your audience better and you have established what they want from you, and you from them. Now it’s time to define what language and visual style you should use to best communicate with them.

Do you know their lingo? Can you integrate in your language some elements that are familiar to them? Do you want to – strategically – sound distant from their world by using a different vocabulary?

There are many possible strategies: it’s important that you think about your talk as a unit, made of different components. The components are: your style, your language, your slides. These should meld together in a coherent way.

If you are going to be presenting with the help of slides take a moment to imagine what visual style will look best in the eyes of your audience. The presentation is about you/your product, but is for them.

Try to look at your material with their eyes and ears. Align not only with their expectations about content, but also with their visual expectations.

5. What is my core message?

Defining the core message should be easier now that you know what your audience wants: it must include something coming from your knowledge and experience. This “something” should be useful for your audience to reach their goal and also for you to reach your desired outcome.

Try to remember some of the last talks and presentations you listened to. You probably can define them with very short sentences like: Dana presented the Q1 forecast that does not look as bad as everyone expected. Or Larry, the expert in email marketing, talked about the important of drip campaigns.

These are core message: you should be able to write yours down in a simple and short sentence.

Take your time to brainstorm possible core messages. After listening to your talk, they are the one thing that your audience will remember.

6. Why is this core message interesting for my audience?

If you brainstormed core messages, chances are you now have more than one. How do you narrow down to the one core message your are going to provide in your presentation?

Look at the core messages you have. You probably have a bunch of core messages that are perfectly aligned with your desired outcome but don’t look so appealing to your audience. And you could also have a number of core messages that are exactly what your audience expects, but that don’t allow you enough maneuvering space to include your pitch.

Your way is in the middle of those two groups. Look for the core messages that align with both your outcomes and the goals of your audience. But if you fail to find one, go for the one that better meets the expectations of your audience.

This is the safe bet when it comes to the core message of your talk.

7. What is the best medium for my core message to come through?

Does your audience really want a PowerPoint presentation  from you? Would you be better off by talking without the help of slides and, maybe, providing a short memo to the attendees?

Whenever it’s allowed by the “etiquette” of your target audience, think about talking without slides or using just 2 or 3 slides that help you make a specific point.

You could also have just a few slides with the main topics of your speech, that set the pace for the different sections of your talk.

Don’t default to making a slide show.

8. What gifts can I give?

I am not talking about materials objects or even discounts or coupons. But more important things like tips, techniques and actionable to-do’s. Stuff that remains with the audience, that your audience can repeat every day.

What I am saying is: your talk happens, and then?

Well if your core message was strong it could be remembered. But wouldn’t it be better if your audience changed their behavior integrating some of your knowledge and ideas in their daily lives?

Do you think it’s far fetched? At the end of most presentations you can provide something actionable. This works not only to fixate the presentation in the memory of your audience, but also serves as a nudge to change their everyday habits.

I am sure that we all have a book we can suggest, a useful practical shortcut, a theory that can be put into practice following steps 1 through 5.

Give gifts: you’ll be remembered.

9. How many slides?

You should not have more than 1 slide per minute of talk, unless you are a super skillful presenter and your visuals kick some serious ass. So a 15 minutes presentation should average 15 slides where you have around 60 seconds per slide.

You can occasionally break this rule, but at the beginning of your public speaking career try to err on the safe side and go for less slides.

10. How much text?

If you are going to present a deck make sure to have the least possible amount of text. Follow these rules:

Optimize text for whoever is sitting in the last row: text size should be 30 points minimum, anything smaller will be unreadable in many settings so avoid small text. If your font looks huge on your computer, then you have achieved the right size for a projected presentation.

No lists: each concept should have its own slide. And don’t ever use a bullet point. Those are banned. Right!?

Only in case you are preparing a handout that you are not going to display on screen, go for longer text.

11. What template should I use?

My suggestion for you is to start from scratch as many times as possible. Drop the defaults. Kick the logos off the slides and focus on your message.

Would it come through better with beautiful typography or great images? Can you draw? Do you have illustrations ready? Look at your assets but don’t let you get locked in by any predefined template.

One word of advice: once you choose a template, stick to it.

12. What visuals should I use?

Only use the visuals that will have the best possible impact with your audience. Think about what they like, what they would appreciate, what they are familiar with.

Your taste should be put to use to decorate your house, not your slides. Remember: your presentation may be about you, but is for your audience.

13. Should I rehearse?

Yes! Nobody is great at a presentation that has not been rehearsed. And you will not loose your spontaneity if you spend some time acting out your presentation.

If you can, record your trials and listen to them to optimize your output.

14. Should I memorize my talk?

Not necessarily. But you should have the sequence clear in your memory.

You should always know by heart what slide comes next, how to transition to it. Memorize the key “junctions” of your discourse. This will also boost your confidence on stage and allow to present without slides in case something technical goes wrong.

15. How much time should I devote to the task overall?

You should allot time for:

  • thinking through your presentation;
  • structuring it;
  • designing it;
  • rehearsing it.

This means that you have to start way in advance, much earlier than you think. Only if you will be presenting current data that would become stale, you are allowed to put together your materials closer your deadline.

16. How should I plan for all this?

Now its time to start working. Put the conference dates on your calendar and plan the time you need to think, structure, design and rehearse your presentation. Make sure to budget the time according to your abilities. Don’t overestimate your ability to prepare everything at the last minute.

Going from fear to a successful presentation can require time, but is a wonderful journey that will have you sweating on structure and story, have you impersonate your audience and align your goals with theirs. In the process you will better understand them, and your self as well.

Let me end on a high note: the fact that you are addressing the problem of becoming a better presenter is already sign that you can become one. The fact that you are reading this article gives me great promise in your growth. You see, 99% of your peers and colleagues don’t even think that presentations can be a great way to communicate, engage, inform and move to action. You do and you have an advantage over them.

Bonus: Download a free checklist that will show you how to best answer these 16 questions the next time you need to prepare a presentation.

If you like what you read you’re in a for a treat. I write about presentations every week to my email list. Join fellow presenters that are on the journey to becoming Presentation Heroes through this link.

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Congratulations, when it comes to presentations you are already part of a 1% elite group

Congratulations! By reading this article you already demonstrate that your are part of an elite!  You belong to a lucky bunch, a restricted club. You are be the 1%. Why? Because you know that there are steps you can take to become a better presenter. Because you feel for your fellow audience members: you would hate to bore them.


But the idea of growing, of developing your skills is equally important to you. You want to become better at something and you want to do it for the long term.

Do you know why you are even luckier? Because 99% of the people are not working on their presenting skills and so they are losing ground to you, at great speed.

Their inability to acknowledge that we are all in a constant learning process puts them behind, far behind.

When you acknowledged that there was a problem, you already won.
So, here is the opportunity to grow your communication, your thinking, storytelling, design, and delivery skills.

I talk about the thinking skills here for the first time. But as the lessons of my course start rolling from production, I realize that this is an important component of Presentation Hero.

The beauty is that after you use a strong structure to grow your thoughts and your ideas, this very structure can disappear under your valuable content. And this is great: nobody needs to see the infrastructure that you use to deliver your thoughts. All they need to see is your great content!

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