Adrian Sng: First SARS, now Co-Vid 19- Leadership and Tips on Overcoming Adversities

As we yearn for this pandemic to be over, it’s more important now than ever, to trust the process. Hear from Adrian on his tips to tide your company through times of crises.


 

What’s your story?

From 2014 -2018, I led the Events Business of SingEx Exhibitions, the events arm of SingEx Holdings. SingEx Exhibitions owns, develops and manages a portfolio of events through collaborations with local and international partners. As its General Manager, my portfolio included growing the Events Business globally through organic development, strategic partnerships and acquisitions as well as establishing in-country show teams. In the last four years, I have set up as well as grown events and subsidiaries in India, Indonesia and also partook in acquisitions of a UK based company and a China-based company to expand SingEx’s geographical reach and portfolio of events. Some of the award-winning events that I have had a strong hand in growing include Singapore FinTech Festival and IoT Asia.

Till end March 2020, I led the Community Business of SingEx Holdings as Chief Community Architect to develop innovative solutions using technology to drive engagements and business value within and across the industry communities SingEx serves with their proprietary events such as Singapore FinTech Festival. SingEx Holdings is wholly-owned by Temasek Holdings, a Singapore-based investment company.

Since April 2020, I’ve been busy starting up an advisory company (MICEvolve) helping Trade event organisers grow, scale and evolve their event portfolios and companies in Asia.

As a believer in continuous learning for my staff, I lead by example; having graduated with an Executive MBA from NUS.

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How did you get into your current line of work/ why did you decide to do it?

I was already interested in the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE in short) industry when I was at NTU doing my Bachelors in Business with a focus on Hospitality and Tourism Management. My interest stemmed from my University activities and my role as the Recruitment Fair Chairperson. The Recruitment Fair is the first exhibition that I have ever organised. It is an exhibition in the University that my committee put together for all the Clubs, Societies, Sports Groups to exhibit their activities and recruit new members from Year One undergraduates in University. For the new undergraduates, it was a one-stop location to meet and speak with all the representatives of the various clubs and to know what’s available to them and the criteria to join each club. While still in University, I did my 8-month internship at a Professional Conference Organiser for my final year and joined a German Trade Fair company for my first job upon graduation.

After my internship stint and first job, it made me realise how much I enjoyed and learned from the work I do within the MICE sector. Developing, growing and scaling a trade exhibition or conference teaches me great skills of being an entrepreneur as you dive into many facets of business such as:

  • Brand Building
  • Product Development and Pricing
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Operations
  • Partnerships
  • Financial budgeting and Cashflow
  • Market entry strategies etc

Being in the exhibitions sector also allowed me to know various companies and the products that they are launching into Asia or Global markets and it helped me in my personal investment strategies too.

In your opinion, what makes a great leader?

A great leader to me is one who uplifts his or her people and motivates each and everyone they lead to be performing at the best they can be towards the common goal. A great leader mentors, inspires and leads by example with good moral values.

What would you say was your greatest difficulty/sacrifice faced as a leader so far? How did you overcome it?

I have been a founder of a company and also a leader within a larger corporation and the greatest difficulty I had faced were very different in both scenarios.

When I was an entrepreneur, my greatest difficulty was in managing cash flows during periods of crisis, like the SARS period in 2003. That period mirrors what we are facing with Covid-19, though it pales in geographic and economic impact with what we are going through currently. During SARS, where business and revenues were affected, costs were rising due to the implementation of increased sanitisation measures for our staff members and the headcount costs we had to maintain, it was tough to carry on the business. I managed to overcome it due to 2 main factors:

Trust: Carrying out your work as an authentic business leader, manager and person with the utmost integrity and dedication towards your staff and clients all the time is extremely important. It reaps positive returns in unthinkable ways, especially during times of crisis or your darkest moments as an entrepreneur. Staff members would rally around you and volunteer to take pay cuts or to receive their pay with a delayed time frame for those who had savings to tide them through. Even bankers can be negotiated with to work out a payment plan for outstanding loan amounts when you show sincerity, gumption and a wish to pay them. Some clients would engage more services with you or ensure their payments are not delayed to help you through those periods.

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A positive mindset and pivoting to new opportunities: In any economic, financial or pandemic crisis, new opportunities and scenarios arise which can pivot your business towards where your organisation and staff have related competencies. During the SARS period, I operated a home cleaning business and pivoted our business to take on sanitisation activities for childcare centres and playschools- both to serve the community’s need at that time and obtain some revenues to keep our cash flow going when the home cleaning activities dropped. Even in this current Covid-19 situation, in my current industry (Events) many companies are in the same boat with zero revenue for many months. Maintain positivity and seek a way out with peers and staff who share that same “can do” spirit. There are new streams of income to develop and new ways of conducting our business.

It will be important not to lapse into a negative spiral psychologically as you will, in turn, attract negativity and it would limit your ability to pivot or take certain steps to “evolve” the business.

When working in a corporation, my greatest difficulty is in rolling out new innovative ideas and change management. Many times, internal stakeholders (Senior Management, Board, Staff) may be the ones in a state of great inertia and prove to be the greatest resistance to new ways of operating and new products. They have been conditioned for many years in the existing models and are uncomfortable or simply do not have the understanding about the new models, new technology and are fearful for their own jobs or are risk-averse to these investments in new models as it may fail.

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If you are a leader, you need to: Create an environment- give strong management support and direction toward the whole organisation to future proof the business. Help the team working on these new innovations to build quick tests, wins and share the mini successes with the Board and staff. Encourage innovation from throughout the organisation. Ring fence your innovation units and provide them with a Sandbox to create and try different solutions. The Sandbox environment created can encompass various areas in procurement methodology, vendors, financial frameworks, success metrics etc.

If you are a staff member or a lead within that innovation unit, it is important to focus on the outcomes you are driving towards and be simple in your presentation to ensure your target audience understands what the new innovation is supposed to do or help with their business. Don’t lift your own ego by throwing in technology jargons. This will make their resistance levels go higher as they will reject the new innovation for fear that it will make them look stupid for not understanding it. Storytell in a coherent and simple manner to get the audience engaged and understand the points you are trying to convey.

How important are storytelling skills to you as a leader? How have you applied it in your work?

I was not aware of the need and importance to have storytelling skills as a leader until situations appeared where I had to address a large number of staff members in a presentation on our business directions and other separate investment projects where I needed to get the buy-in from sceptical stakeholders.

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I have since worked with professionals on various aspects of storytelling and communicating effectively and succinctly with clear visuals and simple articulation to ensure higher audience receptivity and understanding. It is an art worth mastering that includes pre-empting naysayers and their comments and using images that helps etch the impression that you wish to underscore. I have now applied this to conference presentations I have to give, presentations to potential clients, work teams and to Board members.

How are you marketing your business/getting clients? Is there a unique way you use to differentiate yourself/your firm?

For the advisory business that is just starting, it will be marketed through the following:

  • Networks (Personal networks, Collaboration Partners)
  • Multipliers (External Trade Associations in Asia for trade show organisers, Community Groups)
  • Trade events
  • Focused direct outreach (Linkedin outreach or a direct letter/email or call to the Founder, senior management of a targeted company
  • Online search
  • Content Leadership pieces via my Linkedin

What would you say has been the greatest lesson so far as a leader in your work?

I would say the greatest lesson for me as a leader in my work is to grow the company in a calibrated manner. Sometimes, many projects and new opportunities will come our way and there is a tendency to take on too much growth that the organisation and its talents may be insufficient to take on the load or insufficiently skilled that will lead to a failed outcome.

It will be a constant struggle for leaders to reject business at times but it is necessary for sustainable growth of the company than growing too fast on unstable foundations and inappropriate systems for the larger scale.

Some of the factors that I use to consider include:

  1. Is this new opportunity strategic or core to our business now? Or will it be a distraction?
  2. What are the tradeoffs? Vs Wins? (staff, supplier’s time committed and financial resources vs benefits (cash and in-kind)

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Through the years, I am grateful for the many pieces of advice I have received from mentors, peers and family members in various aspects of my life whether it is for the business and work front or in my personal life.

However, there is one piece of advice that I received from our family doctor once that stuck with me throughout the years that has taught me to remain focused.

“Your life at work or in your business can sometimes be viewed as a driver in a Formula One race. You blink. You die.”

It may sound harsh but it was to train me to be focused on what matters and the direction ahead towards my purpose or mission. Disregard and do not get involved with the noise and distractions. In this day and age, there are countless meetings, messages and notifications that will distract us from our main goal or which will lead us to be inefficient. “Busyness” is not necessarily a good thing. It has to be a constant reminder in our own minds to stay focused.

If you had to offer a piece of advice to someone just starting out or who aspires to lead a team/organisation. What advice would you give?

Lead by example in all facets. Do what you say and say what you do. You will not win the trust of the team or people in the organisation if you do not live by and reflect the values and processes that you are espousing. You will be surprised how the culture of the company will be built just by you leading by example.

If one of your company values is that of pursuing Growth and Learning, then as a Leader, you have to be creating learning and growth opportunities for all your team members whether through informal situations, small projects, formal career progression or courses for all your team members. Do not hold back or be protective over sharing your experience or competencies to guide your next in line. You will be surprised by how much more growth you and your staff will experience. For the company, you are “unlocking” your talents for them to grow and flourish.

What have you started trying this year that has been working well for you as a leader?

I used to be very busy with my whole workday packed with meetings with clients, various team meetings or discussions with the subsidiaries. There wasn’t time set aside to think, strategise, ideate or just learn.

In running a business and growing it, many a times, there are many many issues to resolve and which keeps you up at night. This year, I have made it a point to block a timeslot early morning to have this time set aside for me to think, ideate, strategise or just learn from reading. I have found this beneficial for myself and in the way I lead as I am clear of each day’s purpose, prioritisation of activities and also to learn new ideas and spend time reflecting on its applications on the business.

Share with us something you learned recently that changed how you intend to run your team/business.

I have been reading this book Platform Revolution recently and it has changed my perspective of our trade events industry to now view them as knowledge and network platforms. Platforms now thrive greatly on a different set of business drivers and metrics, business architecture and systems and are asset-light compared to traditional pipeline businesses.

It has changed me this past year on how we should evolve our traditional face-to-face trade exhibitions and conferences to include strong digital platforms to enable sharing, learning and networking amongst the community online and also open up opportunities and monetisation to those who could not come to our events. Use data and appropriate recommendation engines to facilitate interactions for greater business amongst the community. I think it will help many new leaders to understand the concept of platforms and how it will impact or help evolve their business.

What is one book you would recommend that every new leader or storyteller be reading?

I would recommend this book, The Leader, The Teacher & You by Lim Siong Guan and Joanne H. Lim.

This book is the 2014 winner of the Singapore Literature Prize and depicts the everyday applied leadership based on the principles and experiences of Lim Siong Guan, former Head of the Singapore Civil Service and former Group President of GIC Private Limited. I recommend this book for every new and existing leader as it gives a fresh take on the notion of leadership as being other-centred so that we can all be the best that we can be.

What are 3-4 tools (digital or offline) that you feel everyone should know about?

Microsoft Sharepoint and Google Docs that enables everyone to work collaboratively on a single document across teams/offices

Trello – It is a good tool to manage projects across different teams and different workstreams.

How can people connect with you?

They can connect with me on:

my Linkedin. https://www.linkedin.com/in/adrian-sng-a03a0b14/

My email at: adriansng@micevolve.com

4 Things for Successful Co-VIDeo Conferencing

You zone out for the umpteenth time to the sound of your dead-pan colleagues reading off their to-do lists. You think “God… work hours are getting longer… but we’re not getting more things done.” We know how this feels – virtual meetings are a pain, for good reasons. 


 

This is how a video conference usually goes for many of us:

  1. You set a time to discuss with your team members. 
  2. Everyone goes online at different timings and wait for the host to start the call.
  3. Once everyone is on… then some of you will start to break the ice by making some small talk. 
  4. Then the team leader would start leading the call. People will be reading off their to-do-lists. As everyone rambles off their tasks, you’re bored and zoned-out because… you don’t exactly need to be there. 
  5. From time to time, the audio breaks up and you lose the flow of your discussion. 
  6. When the call finally ends, you find yourself thinking what was the point of the whole call anyway… for you get no clarity out of it. 

Worst of all… if you’re working in different teams you’d find yourself having to check-in to different video conferences out of formality. (even though you don’t need it). 

As the COVID-19 pandemic goes on, countries are enforcing lockdown and businesses have to collaborate online. This affects internet bandwidth worldwide. This also disrupts our call quality which in turn affects our productivity.

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Let’s face it: Video-Conferencing done wrong – is a major energy and time sucker. And this is why we want to address it. When done right, video conferences can help ensure smooth business continuation for companies. Hence, this is why we want to help you better facilitate video meetings.

Without video conferences, it might be tough to work together. Simply because it’s difficult to align you and your teammates on who-does-what.  You’ll experience people are not sticking to deadlines, unclear of what to do next or worse- completely missing-in-action.

In this post, we’ll explain a few simple tips on how to conduct more effective video conferencing calls.

First of all, it might be a good idea to standardise on one video-conferencing platform. This ensures everyone has clarity on which app they should use. At HighSpark, we use Zoom or Workplace call because it’s tailored for remote teams. (it is intuitive and user-friendly).

 

Do an AudioVisual Check

Starting off, it would be useful to do an audiovisual check to ensure everyone can hear each other. 

Once everyone is online, you can encourage your team members to say a short greeting so people can hear and see each other. In case of poor network connectivity issues, use a set of hand signals when you want to speak during the call so that you won’t be interrupting others. 

For example, a closed fist represents you would like to speak soon and a “T” signal shows you would like to excuse yourself. Hand signals allow you to express yourself without disrupting others. 

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The use of gestures helps to reduce interruptions which create better team dynamics. This can improve the working environment for everyone and help communication flow better.

 

Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking

Another tip is to mute your microphone when you’re not speaking. 

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This helps to minimise any unwanted noise which allows the speaker to focus better. If you mute your mic, you can use the chat function to take notes since your typing will no longer be distracting.

Then, create a simple set of rules for all video calls with your team. 

For example:

  • No eating/drinking 
  • No loud background music 
  • Being 5 minutes early. 

 

Simple rules can maintain a sense of work discipline (which can be difficult since everyone’s at home). This will also help to keep your team on the same page so that discussions can flow well.  If you are the team leader, we recommend you to set an example by following the rules all the time. This keeps your call focused and efficient.

 

Keep it short

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Now, the work discussion has started. A good tip to keeping your team focused is to keep everything short and simple. 

You can achieve this by:

 

  • Making an agenda for the meeting, 
  • Giving out tasks to your teammates or 
  • Inviting the key people involved in the call. 
  • Setting a fixed duration for the call to keep discussions short and focused. (Zoom offers a function where the host of the call can set a fixed call duration which forces the participants to speak succinctly.

 

Visual guides such as  Powerpoint or Keynote are good tools to express ideas. They help make your presentations interactive which keeps your teammates more engaged.

One bonus tip is to lift the spirits of your team through little games and quizzes during the break! This not only makes the meetings more fun but also more memorable.

 

Give a summary

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Remember the notes you took using your call’s chat function? 

This is where they come in handy. Before ending your call, it is a good habit to round it off with a summary of the discussion and propose areas of improvement for future calls. Your summary should list only the key points covered. 

This is extremely important for longer discussions. Lastly, you could start scheduling the next meeting so your team members will have ample time to plan their schedule. 

 

That’s all for now, we hope you enjoyed and found this article useful!


Want to see more of our content? Join our exclusive email list below where we share tips on how to ace your next high-stakes presentation. 

Erik Cheong: Under 30 Leader on Turning Idea Into Thriving Business

Serving those whom you work with is just as important as leading them. After switching from a finance and investment background to logistic technology, Erik Cheong embraced storytelling and servant- leadership to grow his simple business idea into Park N Parcel, one of Singapore’s fastest growing logistics networks.


 

What’s your story?

I am Erik Cheong,  the Co-Founder of Park N Parcel. Heading the company’s business developments such as partnership, marketing, and public relations. I got nominated as Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia in 2019 (Consumer Technology), awarded Quest Ventures – EDGE National Youth Entrepreneurship in 2018 and member of Founders Fellowship South East Asia by Alibaba Global Initiatives

Beyond my bachelor’s degree in Finance and Investment banking background, I have an entrepreneurial soul with a passion to leverage technology to enrich modern lives sharing expertise and experience with the community of entrepreneurs). Park N Parcel is a South East Asia based logistics startup funded by TRIVE (previously known as “TRi5 Ventures”) and supported by the National University of Singapore Enterprise.

We provide last-mile logistics solutions to enhance the current mailing ecosystem. Our main focus is to provide online shoppers with an innovative way to collect parcels in a hassle-free manner by directing their parcels to nearby neighbours or neighbourhood stores – known as Parkers. Since our launch in 2016, Park N Parcel has successfully built the largest network of collection points with over 1600 Parkers islandwide in Singapore and expanding into Southeast Asia.

We work with an array of local and international partners such as FedEx, Cainiao and Singapore Post as well as serving major E-commerce platforms like Alibaba, TaoBao and Lazada to prevent logistics companies from facing re-delivery and making their delivery much more efficient and cost-saving.

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How did you get into your current line of work/ why did you decide to do it?

I’ve always wanted to start something of our own. I left my job in the banking and financial industry and took the plunge into the field of technology that seemed a lot more exciting for me because of the growth opportunities.

 The business idea was conceived one day when I was having lunch far away from home during the weekend. 

Little did I know that the delivery man would reach my home with my parcel in hand with nobody to receive it. He left me multiple missed calls and we could not find a resolution. I would have no choice but to head to the post office to collect my delivery directly causing great inconvenience and wasted time.

With the growing e-commerce landscape in South East Asia, my partner and I saw a huge opportunity to solve this problem that affected us individually and to turn it into a thriving business. We hope that what we build will become an integral part of every online shoppers’ lives.

 

In your opinion, what makes a great leader? 

 “Once you’re determined to be a leader, whether you like it or not, I have to tell you,  your job is to help others be successful.” -Jack Ma

This is a quote that I live by when leading my team.  I firmly believe that a leader’s job is to help others succeed. Period.

Largely, I believe that what most people misinterpret is what makes a good leader versus what makes a good manager. Leaders inspire, set common goals and drives change through core values. Whereas managers are more procedural, systems-driven and are effective executors. 

Leaders develop a following, while managers tend to keep a unit of subordinates humming. There is an element here of choice. 

We don’t necessarily choose our managers, but we definitely choose our leaders and who we want to follow.

 

What would you say was your greatest difficulty/sacrifice faced as a leader so far? How did you overcome it?

Specifically for startups, the biggest challenges are pretty common among similar businesses. One of the challenges that I still continue to face and that I feel is the most important to address as a leader is this:

Hiring and retaining talent

For a small startup company to succeed, we need to attract talents that are motivated to go the extra mile and who are personally invested in the success of the company (though they may not hold shares). We need people who will hustle and call the company their own though other employers may be more competitive.

I’ve found that the best way to begin thinking of a talent management strategy is to first have a clear picture of where you want the business to go and set small milestones that lead up to your eventual goals. This provides direction to yourself as a leader as well as your team.

For example, Park N Parcel wants to become the largest collection point network with 2000 ‘Parkers’ or collection points. All my team members know this and we celebrate every significant milestone on our way there. 

At each point, I also ensure that staff are well aware of our grander plan for their careers, our runway for the business and that there is some certainty ahead. 

It’s hard to get people behind you when you don’t even know where you’re going yourself.

Some ways I manage this:

  1. Ensure that every team member has a certain level of autonomy in their role and they feel that they belong to the wider nucleus. 
  2. Forgive small mistakes and encourage learning and experimentation.
  3. Open communication and horizontal hierarchy – in a small firm, you need self-starters who dare to do and provide constructive feedback when you need it
  4.   How important are storytelling skills to you as a leader? How have you applied it in your work?

 

I believe storytelling is one of the key strengths of a leader.  It’s important to let your team, partners, customers believe and feel your passion and what you are doing can impact the industry, the region or the world.

Over the last 4 years, I have spoken at over 100 events across the region such as Move Asia 2020, Home Delivery Asia 2019, Post & Parcel 2019 APAC, URA Urban Lab: Delivering Together & Transforming Urban Logistics, Applying Supply Chain & Engaging New Technology by Supply Chain Management (SCM), Startup Go Global by Sharing Economy Association, OCBC Future Smart, Youth Entrepreneurship Symposium 2018, Techsauce Global Summit 2018 and more.

Interviewed with Squawk Box Asia by CNBC, Nikkei, Postal Technology International, Ashley Talks Podcast, The Logician, The CEO Library, Supply Chain & Logistics Podcast, The Straits Times, Lian He Zao Bao (联合早报), MoneyFM 89.3, FM 93.8 NOW, FM95.8 Capital, Tech In Asia, E27, Vulcan Post, Asia Tech Podcast, AsiaX, NUS Enterprise Block 71 and Profit Aside.

With these storytelling skills, it is much easier to strike partnership/collaboration with like-minded entrepreneurs and investors.

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How are you approaching marketing for your business/getting clients so that they choose you over others?

If you want your business to be ahead and be known for excellence vis-a-vis competitors, it’s not going to be an easy journey. At our company, I’ve always made it a point to do the difficult things that don’t always scale.

For example, in our business, our strong collection point network is the bread-and-butter feature that keeps us competitive. When we first launched in 2016 – we had more than 10,000 applications to be part of our network, but we manually selected only a minute fraction of them. 

It took us weeks to sort through the applications, but I’d say our customers and stakeholders are much happier because we did the hard thing which was to sift out only the quality partners. I hold that philosophy for everything else we do in the company – we cannot shy away from the hard stuff, because only by doing those well, can we win.

Aside from our team, we also need to manage an ecosystem of ‘Parkers’ by educating them and engaging them as they provide their services. If we receive multiple complaints, we make it a point to take swift action to rectify teething issues. We hold the same principles for our team – though we have open communication as a core value, we must never take it for granted or our dynamics will fall apart.

We’ve managed to acquire some of the largest players in postage and transportation in our local space as customers and partners like Singpost and FedEx over the last 4 years. This is no small part due to the fact we personalise our communications and work on getting the bits that don’t scale with technology right.

 

What would you say has been the greatest lesson so far as a leader in your work?

I’d say I have a few lessons that have stuck by me since our first ventures.

Build a great team and don’t settle

Prior to our current business, Bryan, Gan Hong and myself used to manage a hostel. That was a testing ground for our abilities as business people and also a litmus test for our team dynamics. I’ve heard horror stories of business partners turning years of toil upside down in an instant and as a result, I choose to only work closely with people I know that have complementary skills and the right attitude.

Anything less is a risk.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that though I have a useful set of skills, no man or woman is an island and we can always do better working together with other specialists.

You won’t get everything right, but that’s okay

Leaders need to acknowledge that they will make mistakes and learn from them. My partners and I come from industries that have nothing to do with the current line we are in – logistics and tech. Naturally, we underwent plenty of trial and error. There will be some things you can only learn by being on the ground and doing it – don’t let your assumptions govern your decisions or it could be your downfall.

Be proud and pitch often

I believe 100% in what we do and I do want everyone to know about it so they can partake in the value we’re creating. This means I don’t shy away from opportunities to speak to other business owners, partners, investors to pitch our vision and what we do.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advising leaders to show off. Quite the opposite. The more you talk about your business, the more feedback you’ll get on your pitch and you might garner insight you never thought you’d get.

My only advice here is to pitch your least favourite people first before speaking to high-stakes contacts like ideal investors. You’ll still want to sound polished when it counts!

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What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?


It might sound cliche, but ‘Knowing Your Customers’ was the best piece of advice for me.

Because there are hundreds of industries, every customer is somehow different. Watching them, understanding them has become our greatest source of learning. You can discover the best solutions, the best ways to serve them and the best ways to market to them all through listening and speaking to them in person.

That said, in our years of business we’ve seen both happy customers and ones that sometimes detract from our vision and service. However, I believe that unhappy customers are not bad customers. The fact that they bother to complain means they still want you to be better and service their needs. I see these as service recovery opportunities and I implore leaders to explore this line of thought as well.

Again, ‘know your customers’ can apply to every single type of person you meet. If you truly know someone inside-out, their fears, desires and pains – there is little you can’t do to help them and convince them to see things your way.                       

If you had to offer a piece of advice to someone just starting out or who aspires to lead a team/organisation. What advice would you give?

 I have a few key things I think would be useful for someone starting out:

1. Take action and take risks

As a leader, you should have the autonomy and the mandate to take risks and get things done. Your teams can function on their own, but they need direction. Even if you aren’t always sure about what’s next, you might have to find a way to be sure fast regardless because people are counting on you. Commit to an action plan and take some risks. You won’t always be right, but you won’t always be wrong either.

 2. Be indispensable

Think about the companies that are around after centuries of being in business. Why are they still around? It’s because they’ve cemented a place in the minds and hearts of their customers and audiences. We need to do the same. We need to become an essential aid to our organisations, essential motivators for our team members and essential service providers for our customers.

Being indispensable or something people can’t go on without is the strategy that many have proven will stand the test of time.

This applies to products and ourselves. People will rush to the store for a painkiller, but you hardly see anyone do that for a vitamin supplement. Can you position you or your products as ‘Painkillers’ solving problems rather than ‘Vitamins’ appealing to emotions versus functional needs?

3. Learn from other leaders and places

Read books, expand your social circles and immerse yourself in the company of other leaders. Travel to other places outside of your country and see how people run companies and teams. I went to the US and China and it opened my eyes to how these people drive technological adoption and evolution in those geographies.

What have you started trying this year that has been working well for you as a leader?

You only have 24 hours in a day. As a leader, sometimes you’ll feel like you have less. Time-management is a skill I am honing and aiming to master this year. Every night before I head to bed, I sort out a to-do list of priorities and meetings for the next day. We also have a synced calendar within the company so everyone is aware of events or deadlines looming.

We do sync-up meetings in the morning at 10 am every day and each member has a minute to highlight key issues they’re facing and whether any additional support is needed.

Managing time along with being keyed into the progress of your team as a unit will do wonders for productivity and morale moving forward.

If I could add one more thing we enforce – we always reiterate our core values: Integrity, Teamwork, Trust, Collaboration, Take Action. These guide our decisions and ensure that even though we might go into our own little caves to finish our work – we are always aligned and moving in the same direction.

 

Share with us something you learned recently that changed how you intend to run your team/business.

At the time of writing, Singapore has been locked down for 2 whole months – disrupting close to 9 out of 10 businesses. This is not something we expected and many companies have been caught off guard.

That said, we cannot rest on the laurels of our previous successes and sit still while change is happening around us. We’ve taken measures to pivot our human collection points to introduce contactless deliveries that have since brought us some liquidity and new business opportunities.

Leaders have to be comfortable dealing with uncertainty”. Even if you’re not sure, you have to maintain a strong and decisive front for the teams that are counting on you.

At every step, you can choose to give up or respond and try other means to ride the wave into new opportunities.

As a leader, you’ll regularly face situations where you need to get buy-in against the odds. How would you overcome a hurdle like this?

My advice remains the same. You have to do the work and you have to know who you’re dealing with. You need to figure out what’s in it for them and what their hot buttons are to prepare for any curveballs they might throw in your conversation.

For example, before meeting someone new I usually:

  1. Do basic research on Linkedin.
  2. Visit their company websites to understand who they are, what they stand for and who their partners are
  3. Set the agenda of the meeting beforehand so we are aligned on the value add of working together

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. ” Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In the course of the research, you’ll typically get a much better understanding of the values of your counterpart and this makes negotiations easier too.

What is one book you would recommend that every new leader or storyteller be reading?

  • My Startup Bible  (Read more than 10 times)  – The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

    I will strongly recommend anyone who wants to run his or her own startup should get this book. The Lean Startup method teaches you how to drive a startup, how to steer, when to turn, and when to persevere and grow a business with maximum acceleration. I applied the Build-Measure-Learn model into my own startup Park N Parcel, the key is to validate all your assumptions and gather market feedback of your services/product via the minimum viable product (MVP). The first 8 months we spent on building our company through prototyping, testing, conducting market research, conceptualising design and fundraising. In January 2017, we started with 100 parkers as collection points who were mainly from roadshows, flyer distributions door-to-door surveys etc. We relied heavily on the surveys to attain feedback about our idea which we felt were important because ultimately, they would be the ones utilizing our platform. We also have a presence on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram and, also leveraged on influence and bloggers which have helped us tremendously.
  • Alibaba – The House that Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark.

    I am a big fan of Jack Ma, I have 4 different books talking about Jack. He is a top entrepreneur & visionaire, who started out as a modest English teacher and built Alibaba into one of the world’s largest companies, an e-commerce empire on which hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers depend on. I am impressed with how he overcame his humble origins and early failures to achieve massive success with Alibaba.

What are 3-4 tools (digital or offline) that you feel everyone should know about?

  1. Online  – DingTalk  (Similar to Zoom but with more features)  – 100% free of charge & more work-friendly. Provide constant reminder & alert and Support huge File / Documents upload. It’s like all in one app for work-related stuff.  My top recommendation – it’s  widely  adopted by Alibaba Staff
  2. Online -Google Calender  – Super useful, especially when the team is growing. To keep everyone on the same page and notify everyone about where and what you are doing.  Allow easier schedule planning for internal or external meetings.
  3. Offline  – Maintain a Huge Whiteboard with our latest KPI number, to keep track week on week growth. To motivate the team ( to push harder the following week if we fail to hit targets) or celebrate small wins (if we exceed or hit target growth)

 


How can people connect with you?

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/erik-cheong
Email: erik@parknparcel.com.sg

Alvin Poh: Leading Vodien from Small Tech Firm to a $30M Business

Countless sleepless nights, unstable income and brutal rejections, a good leader should stick through them all. But what does it really feel like to lead a team through unchartered business concepts in a highly competitive market? In this post, we interview Co-founder of Vodien, Singapore’s #1 Domain Provider: Alvin Poh


What’s your story?

TLDR; At the age of 33 years old, I sold my Internet business for S$30 million and began seeking out my life’s passions and travelling the world.

My business partner and I started the company from zero dollars in revenue all the way until the company became Singapore’s #1 domain provider with 35,000 clients and a team of 150 before the 8-figure exit.

I spent the next few years travelling the world, exploring new hobbies like snowboarding, kite-surfing and many more activities that I never got to try before.

After that journey of rediscovering myself, I’ve made it my focus to help budding entrepreneurs just like myself when I was starting out to scale their business, achieve breakthrough profits AND attain freedom in time to pursue pleasures of life.

How did you get into your current line of work/ why did you decide to do it?

It all began from a small IT company we started at 17-years old and ran for a number of years. The hosting market was in its infancy then and we decided to start Vodien, which eventually became Singapore’s largest provider of web hosting services.

There was one specific, incredibly valuable lesson we learned that changed the way we did business.

We learned that running a service-based business was a great way to get your feet wet in entrepreneurship. It’s low-cost and much lower-risk compared to developing products.

However, the real lesson was when we soon found that services are almost impossible to scale without hiring more headcount.

That was when we decided to pivot the business entirely to focus exclusively on web hosting – buying physical servers, and renting out virtual space to customers at scale.

In your opinion, what are a few qualities good leaders must have?

Leaders need to possess many skills, but I feel one of the most important skills or the most important is effective communication. Just as well-known billionaire Richard Branson describes, communication is the “most important skill any leader can possess.”

I was a very shy boy growing up. I remember that I used to be so shy, I couldn’t even muster the courage to speak to stall owners when I went down to the market to purchase something.

After I started my business, I was literally thrown into the deep end of the pool. Even the task of finding a solid business partner was something that you need decent communication skills to accomplish.

Essentially, leaders need to understand people and be able to get the right message across when it counts. Try convincing someone to commit to a long-time partnership with you if you lack the right communication skills. It’s an uphill battle.

Leaders also need to have a logical mind, be creative and learn to be able to take calculated risks. But in my opinion, almost every aspect that leads to success will require a certain level of communication skills to work.

What would you say was your greatest difficulty/sacrifice faced as a leader so far? How did you overcome it?

For me, time was my greatest sacrifice.

I spent half of my life building Vodien. That’s time that I’ll never be able to get back even if I had all the money in the world. That said, I don’t look back with regret. It was a necessary cost that I had to pay in order to improve my circumstances.

I didn’t come from a rich family. My background meant that I had to work doubly hard to break out of what my life was back then.

Any free time I had as a teenager in my early-20s was dedicated to growing our business. I’d take on roles like customer support at the beginning when we didn’t have the manpower. I’d personally handle issues that were brought up to me by customers. It was truly a time vortex, but I learned a lot about each aspect of the business because of that. I’d recommend leaders try to get their hands dirty every once and a while to be able to spot areas of improvement and empathise with your teams.

As a young business owner, I had many ups and downs. My peers were graduating from universities and many went on to bring home massive paycheques while I had to continue to plough my income back into the business. Many times I would reflect and ponder if I really made the right decision.

Truly in life, you’ll never really know, but there were patterns along the way that gave us the confidence to move forward. We had a strong team, a profitable company and each other’s support.

It was only many years later did the company grow to a decent enough size that my co-founder and I could take a step back and engineer ways to strategically remove ourselves from the day-to-day operations of the business.

My advice: Don’t shy from hard work and stay focused on your vision.

How important are storytelling skills to you as a leader? How have you applied it in your work?

Storytelling is an essential part of communication skills as it’s the medium in which we, as humans, can best connect with others. Thus, it’s a must to know how to communicate and appeal to our emotions.

These days as an entrepreneurship mentor, I find that the best way to connect with my students and peers is through stories. My experiences and the lessons I’ve learned are more effectively received and remembered when I include anecdotes and vivid imagery in my conversations.

Whether I’m looking to stand out in my marketing efforts, speaking to a large audience or helping people/businesses – I make it a point to humanise my messaging and relate my experiences to theirs. That’s the only way to connect on a deeply personal level.

Aligning the content I share to storytelling techniques has made a huge impact on the engagement I get from readers. Some techniques I use in crafting narratives are:

  1.  Including elements of conflict,
  2. Making my stories conversational and relatable
  3.  Using visual imagery to frame my stories

As a result, I’ve achieved thousands of meaningful interactions on my social channels as well as qualified traffic for my mentorship programs.

It might sound simple, but the potential positive impact is profound. Understanding how to communicate with people in a common language is one of the most powerful ways for you to have your ideas accepted and grow your brand.

How did you approach marketing your business/getting clients?

I’d say I’ve been quite lucky that the success of my first venture has left me with quite a bit of a following as well as positive news coverage of our acquisition deal.

As a result, I have an existing audience that already is interested in how they can replicate what I’ve done with Vodien for their own businesses.

As such, I’ve embraced social media as the best means to reach out to my target market by providing educational content as a mentor. I post on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Most of my posts contain a story or anecdote from my journey at Vodien which I am well-known for. This helps them understand that my expertise comes from application and also helps me develop a connection with potential mentees.

Again, marketing requires a very different approach to various kinds of businesses. I’d say as a leader, you need to become or at least appear more approachable and show that you can empathise with your target audience. Be aware of your persona on your various channels and ensure they all sing the same song and tell the same story.

What would you say has been the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far as a leader?

I’ve learned that to scale up a business, it boils down to having a few key fundamentals done right. Doing these things well will make things a lot easier, but not doing them right can result in the journey being fraught with difficulty and frustration.

Because it’s made up of several concepts that become complex as a whole, I’ve come up with a framework to layout all these fundamentals in a simple, step-by-step manner that any entrepreneur or leader can then follow.

I call it the Triple-E Growth Engine, and it’s the culmination of all the entrepreneurial lessons that I’ve learned, distilled in an easy-to-follow framework. This is the framework that I use to mentor the entrepreneurs and founders that I work with.

The Triple-E Growth Engine is made up of 3 components:

Envision

This is the base of the Growth Engine. Everything starts with the vision that the entrepreneur or founder has in their mind. The key is to translate the vision into an executable strategy. Many businesses face problems finding clients or having cash-flows issues or getting more sales. The Envision pillar of the Growth Engine refines and re-defines the business so that these problems are no longer an issue. For leaders in general, a clear vision is bedrock to your business success. If you have no idea where you’re going – you’re going to be in for a rude awakening when you find you’ve been digging in the wrong place from the start.

Empower

Once Envision is worked on properly, the entrepreneur or founder will find a greater sense of clarity and purpose moving forward. This is then when we work on the 2nd pillar of the Growth Engine: Empower. I teach them how to attract the talent that the business needs to build and retain an A-star team. Most importantly, I also show them how to work together as a team of one instead of working together as a group of individuals. Culture fit and foundational intellect are nothing to snuff at. It can make or break the dynamics and operations of your team if you overlook it.

Execute

After the first two pillars, we look at the third, which is Execute. This is an insanely powerful pillar. However, if the first two aren’t done properly, it’ll be like having a world champion taking part in a running race, but running in the wrong direction. I show founders and entrepreneurs the tools and systems and frameworks that I learned and used in my business to create legendary levels of efficiency, focus, and incessant growth. This creates an unstoppable momentum that absolutely crushes goals that the business has. One of these tools is to use SOPs and a hierarchy chart to align your operations to move without your involvement. Leaders need to avoid playing the role of a technician too often and leave those bits to the experts. Leaders need to focus on the big picture and execute on the vision. Period.

If you had to offer a piece of advice to someone just starting out or who aspires to lead a team/organisation. What advice would you give?

For the off-chance of it sounding cliche, leaders absolutely need to be crystal clear on their vision. Your vision dictates how your company or team culture is, and how you differentiate yourself from your competition. It will also translate into determining what pain points of your customers or stakeholders you’ll want to work on as a priority.

It is so easy to be focused on the wrong things. For example, a lot of new business ideas focus on solving problems that don’t exist, instead of creating solutions to ones already faced by people.

Without having the right vision, you’ll find it incredibly difficult and frustrating to find a foothold in the market. You’ll find that few customers will be interested in what you have to offer, and you’ll find that you’ll have all sorts of business issues, such as cash flow problems and worries about meeting payroll.

Some basic questions to ask yourself:

  • Who am I serving?
  • What are my top priorities?
  • Do I know my next steps?
  • What does my A-Team to accomplish these look like?

What have you started trying this year that has been working well for you as a leader?

I personally believe servant leadership is something every leader should try and adopt. Potentially, I feel it could be the best form of leadership there is. Even while growing Vodien, I believed that my role as a leader was to serve, not just my customers, but also my employees.

Leadership and culture come from the top. How you respond to and treat your team members will shape the way they become and by osmosis treat your end customers. This shaped the way that our company culture was, and I continually looked at putting my employees’ needs and development as a priority, even above my own needs at times. That meant pushing my teams to grow professionally, think critically, and to enable them to produce their best work while working with me.

I believe if you are not invested in your team, you won’t be able to get the feedback and commitment that will help propel you to greater heights as a leader.

As such, servant leadership has been a huge part of my leadership and life philosophy. Recently, I’ve been demonstrating that I live my life by the values and traits that I continually highlight.

I am very vocal about my philosophy to leadership and I’ve received very positive responses for this brand of leadership. Granted it’s worked well for me, I acknowledge that it might not work in its entirety for everyone else. Yet, I don’t see why not.

My new obsession is to create valuable content for my audience. Every time I receive their words of thanks for the content that I share, it energises me to give much more. That’s the kind of feeling I hope every leader can experience. When you get more as you give more unconditionally.

Share with us something you learned recently that changed how you intend to run your team/business.

In my first business, I went around without a clear plan of what to do. It’s sort of like feeling around in the dark. I know most leaders have been there. It’s a dark place where you just go with the motions and hope that things play out.

Having a strong mental game and framework or paradigm to follow is key to eliminating this from happening.

Whether you might want to try my Triple-E system or you adhere to your own, the best leaders to my knowledge all have their own mental models that lead them to success.

It’s never just a ‘throw things at a wall and see what sticks’ approach. It might be my developer background, but I believe that we can create systems to help us organise many aspects of our lives. Using frameworks to help us achieve our goals in leadership is one of them.

Create your own system or adopt someone else’s. You’ll find that it adds a lot of clarity to your journey ahead.

As a leader, you’ll regularly face situations where you need to get buy-in against the odds. How would you overcome a hurdle like this?

I’ve been in business long enough to know that appealing only to logic won’t get you anywhere. Emotions play a big part in how we make decisions and we need to leverage that fact to have people share our views and ideas.

Understanding my stakeholders

The way I get buy-in is to first understand my stakeholders and their considerations. What might they be worried about? What might they feel about my ideas? What do they want out of this discussion?

 Incorporate into conversation

Then I have to piece together a cohesive proposal that not just addresses the benefits of the solution that I’m proposing, but also tackles the priorities and considerations that my audience has.

For example, if I was leading a product team, I might propose a project that would require 6 months of R&D before the launch of a commercially-ready product. I’ll not only have to get the buy-in from engineering but also the buy-in of the finance team, who might be more risk-averse.

As these two groups of people are inherently very different. A one-size-fits-all approach might cause some backlash.

Show feasibility and handle objections

One trick I love to use is to include details like finances. This gives people some level of assurance that decisions are measured and that there are no hidden flaws in the plan we haven’t discussed. I’d research exactly how much the whole project will cost, and cover a few examples of how risks are mitigated. Any other reasons for them to say no will also be taken into consideration when preparing my story.

Getting buy-in is like a dance. We need this person to dance with us too if not it’ll just be a solo performance. For that to happen, their needs have to be taken care of so that they feel safe enough to participate.

What are 3-4 tools (digital or offline) that you feel everyone should know about?

Ideas can hit you in a split-second and you’ll need to be prepared to document them on the fly.

I use StandardNotes a lot, which is free for most use-cases. The reason why I use a plain-text-based note-taking system like StandardNotes is that I like to keep things simple. Plain-text syncs fast, the system operates cross-platform, and if I want to, I can always export my notes out anytime. I keep my to-do list, my thoughts, and even my bookmarks in StandardNotes.

How can people connect with you?

Instagram: @alvinpohofficial
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alvinpoh
Website: www.AlvinPoh.com
Facebook: @alvinpohofficial

Making Your Best PowerPoint Presentation – The Ultimate Guide

Think back on all the presentations you have ever sat through. Which presentation comes to mind immediately, and why was it so particularly impressionable? In which phase of your life did you encounter it, and was it effective in conveying its message?

In the digital age where technology practically enables our everyday lives, making a PowerPoint presentation is almost effortless — but an effective one? That takes practice and most importantly, a keen understanding of how to do it.

Making Your Best PowerPoint Presentation — The Ultimate Guide

In this guide, we will be breaking presentations down into the two key components to be considered: content and visuals. Most people get carried away with either, but for a PowerPoint to be sufficiently informative and impressionable, these two must complement each other in order to achieve the perfect balance.

Content

Understand Your Audience

Best powerpoint gift

We sometimes ask our clients to think of a PowerPoint presentation as a gift you’re preparing for someone. When selecting a present, you have to keep in mind his / her general background, preferences and needs.

The same goes for creating a presentation; it is essential to familiarize yourself with the style of your audience.

Flashy slides and dramatic transitions may work well with children but not with adults. As such, before you begin working on anything, take a couple of minutes to think about the people you are reaching out to. It will help you determine how important it is to impress them, and how much consideration you’ll need to give to your presentation.

a. Set a purpose and objective

Spontaneous presentations are fun (try them out sometime!), but chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re creating a presentation for a specific task.

With that in mind, ask yourself what you hope to accomplish. Is it to deliver your content in 15 slides, or 20 minutes? Is it to achieve a certain conversion rate after the presentation? Knowing and keeping a clear idea of what your goal is can help you measure the success of the presentation, and gauge what is required to fulfil your objectives, which can be a huge time-saver.

To put it simply — if there is no purpose or objective, there is no reason to give the presentation.

b. Use Ethos, Pathos and Logos

Language is a powerful medium through which ideas are conveyed, and one good way to manipulate it is through the use of Ethos, Pathos and Logos. Ethos calls upon the ethics or values of the speaker, Pathos evokes emotions in the audience and Logos relies on logic by using evidence and facts to persuade.

While a delicate balance of all three is the ideal scenario, it is likely that there will be one aspect that warrants greater attention. For instance, if you’re giving a talk at a university, an appeal to ethics and boosting your credibility as an established figure is what will hook your audience’s attention and convince them that you are worth listening to.

On the other hand, if you’re a representative of a non-profit organization calling for donations, pathos would appear to be the most significant tool, as the most important thing would be to move the hearts of your audience, compelling them to take action.

Work on Your Content First

storyboard notebook planning your content

When you begin developing your presentation, it’s easy to get carried away with designing; who doesn’t like pretty images? While it is cool (we love our jobs!), try focusing on getting your content right first, as it will influence your layout to a certain extent. Generally, we recommend starting with understanding your objectives and the audience who will view your presentation.

Then arrange your presentation in a coherent and compelling manner; we usually do this through a storyboard, but you can do it in any way that works for you.

Once you’ve got a general outline down, work on selecting your main visuals and the overall look of the presentation such as the colour, fonts, and background. You can then put it all together in PowerPoint based on what you’ve planned.

Prepare Detailed Handouts or Publications for Your Audience

Regardless of the size of the audience you are addressing, PowerPoint presentations with too many visuals and too little text can be virtually meaningless without the speaker’s narration.

Most people are aware of the benefits of having more visuals than text, but what they don’t know is the importance of putting in the effort to create a detailed, written handout as a takeaway from the presentation for the audience to reflect on and refer to.

There is, unfortunately, little point in having your audience remember the stunning graphics you had but not the main points of your sharing.

Be sure to spare a few more minutes and include the key points of your presentation in the handout so that it does not become a fleeting work that will not survive beyond your vocalization of the points. This is especially important when your presentation is packed with essential information that you want the audience to retain.

The creation of detailed handouts also serves another practical function, which is to cater to any interested parties who might have missed the presentation due to various reasons, or for audience members who attended your talk to spread the word. The space to absorb the information conveyed in your

Presentation through a written handout also caters to people who are more used to reading on their own — just like how some people prefer to sit in for lectures, whereas others prefer to do their self-studying in peace and quiet. Regardless, having these handouts ensures that no one is neglected.

Create User-Friendly Exports

technical error on presentation because of format

With technology being ingrained into our everyday lives, you may find yourself in a situation where you are asked to send an online copy of your PowerPoint presentation to someone else. While that sounds easy, measures should be taken to ensure that the version the other party receives and looks through is how you want it to be seen.

Never assume that your deck will look the same on all platforms; if the other party does not have PowerPoint installed on their computer or is using a completely different version of it, it might very likely result in your slides appearing differently. This means that your alignment might be off, fonts are not displayed correctly, or worse, that your speaker’s notes are clearly seen in the presentation file.

Thankfully, there is one easy solution to prevent this — export your presentation as a PDF so that everything will remain as it is, and no changes can be made to it. This can be achieved through File > Export > Create PDF.

Remember: You may have the best PowerPoint presentation, but you still need to be prepared for all possible scenarios as much as possible!

Familiarize Yourself with the Functions in PowerPoint

If you’ve ever faced the problem of Googling repeatedly to locate several functions in PowerPoint, you may not be making full use of the convenience that this beautiful program offers.

There is a ribbon, or a toolbar, that runs along the top of the PowerPoint window which contains most of the commands that are used frequently. The ribbon is organized into tabs, and each tab contains a group of related sources. For instance, in the “Review” tab, you can find some of the most commonly used tools that may be useful, such as checking for spelling and grammatical errors or activating the thesaurus.

Before you start working on your presentation, take a few minutes to run through the functions available again. Afterward, you will find that your process becomes much more efficient, as you won’t have to waste time searching for a particular function. The same goes for keyboard shortcuts; using Ctrl / Command + c & v is much faster than using your mouse to search for the copy and paste functions. Moreover, learning about the different functions that exist may just get your creative juices flowing as inspiration can come from that knowledge.

In addition, PowerPoint also has a Quick Access Toolbar which can be placed in two possible locations, depending on your preference. It is a customizable toolbar containing a set of commands that are independent of the displayed ribbon. Buttons that represent commands can be added to the Quick Access Toolbar, and this toolbar will always remain visible, which means your creation process will become that much simpler and more efficient.

Create a Captivating Cover Title

Choosing a good cover slide title

Picture your presentation as an advertisement. Summarize your entire presentation in a phrase, 7 words or less, that you want your audience to take away. The key here is to make it a compelling one — for instance, benefit statements such as “Boosting Sales Through Technology” for a sales pitch will work well in helping your audience understand the most important message being conveyed in the presentation.

We recommend introducing the phrase right at the start so that the audience has ample time to familiarize themselves with the goal of your pitch.

Use Impactful Closing Techniques

Depending on the presentation that you are giving, a strong ending is pretty much the cherry on top, and it determines whether your audience walks away with a good impression of your presentation. There are multiple closing techniques and choosing one mostly depends on the sort of presentation that you are giving.

Here’s a general guide based on the three most prominent styles of presentation — persuasive, informative, and introductory:

For persuasive presentations, where your main aim is to convince your audience to believe in the argument that you are making, offer a new perspective or angle for your audience to contemplate over. While your ending slide should definitely reiterate your overall points, offering a new perspective or angle would give your audience an opportunity to reflect, as well as provide an impression that you have looked at the issue at hand from a myriad of perspectives.

For informative presentations, it would be ideal to end your session with a Q&A session. Give your audience members a chance to clarify any questions they might have on the spot and at the same time, present a reliable image of yourself by being familiar with the content of your slides. If you’re thrown a question that you can’t answer, don’t panic! Thank the audience for his/her question and say that you will look into the matter before getting back to him/her. Be sure to do so, else you’ll lose your credibility. While you should know the topic like the back of your hand, there will be times where we’re offered a perspective or question that we’ve never considered, and that’s alright- just remember to remain calm and collected.

For introductory presentations such as business pitches, end off by including a call to action. Offer them a good reason to take action and be clear with what you’re trying to accomplish by bringing it forward in your last slide. Practice delivering your conclusion and engage the audience with eye-contact and emotions as you wrap up for a strong finish.

Visuals

Choose the Right Visuals

Less is not always more, but when it comes to a PowerPoint presentation, less is definitely more. In order to convey a clear and memorable message, it is essential to ensure that your presentation relies on a simple visual system. Focus on simplicity so that your audience will not be distracted by visuals.

Think of their attention span as limited — use only a few colours and fonts that are pleasant to read to keep them there with you. Ensure that your brand or message remains consistent throughout and one way to do that is through understanding colour psychology.

Studies have shown that our brains are generally more inclined to prefer recognizable brands, which makes colour incredibly important when creating a brand identity. Bolder suggestions that highlight the importance of new brands using the loco palette colours that ensure differentiation from entrenched competitors have been made as well. Aside from simply standing out, surveys conducted have also shown that different genders are actually more receptive to certain colours. As such, you might want to consider doing a little bit of research yourself and recognizing which gender you would like to place greater emphasis on before choosing a colour scheme.

The general guideline is that men seem to prefer bold colours while women prefer softer colours. Also, men were more likely to select shades of colours as their favourites (colours with black added), whereas women were more receptive to tints of colours (colours with white added).

However, this differs from case to case and in different cultures as well. As such, the main takeaway is that colours play a greater role than you can ever imagine, so do not neglect its importance in the difference it can make in your presentation. Do a little more research on your own before you decide on your colour branding.

Organize Your Presentation

Light table view or slidesorter view in mac keynote

PowerPoint has multiple features that will allow you to reconsider the order of your slides and convey the essential information in the simplest way possible. Think of your presentation as an argument — it has to flow coherently so that your audience can follow through without feeling confused or overwhelmed.

The Slide Sorter View function is a great way for you to run through everything that you have on hand and decide the following things: whether there is any information you can afford to omit or have missed out, and how you can rearrange your information in a way that is smooth and easy to follow. Read through your slides again as if you were looking at them for the first time and read out the information as you would when presenting.

At the same time, pay attention to the details in your visuals and ensure that the alignment, colours, and fonts are consistent. The key is for the presentation to be informative but not overwhelming, and eye-catching but not to the point of it being distracting.

Logical Arrangement

To take it one step further, there is an art to how you should organize your material as well. Masterful presenters deliberately arrange their presentation in a specific order that motivates the audience to take action. Just like in an essay, your presentation should always be ordered in this format: problem, solution, and call-to-action.

Start with the problem by pointing out what your audience is currently facing without your product in the case of a sales pitch, then go on to present your product information as the solution.

You should be targeting their pain points; giving them reasons why they should hear you out and show them that you can make their lives better with your solution. In the last section, motivate them to take action by providing details on how they can do so, such as including the price of your product and a contact number they can reach to obtain any clarifications.

Lastly, to boost your overall credibility, it would be ideal to include good reviews that can serve as reliable testimonials and lock in your audience’s desire to do whatever it is you are encouraging.

Bonus: The Importance of Good Work Ethics

Creating your best PowerPoint presentation takes time and effort, and good work ethics serve as a guide in helping you achieve it. If you want a TLDR (too long; didn’t read) version of this article, read this section, as it serves as the foundation for what we’ve shared throughout. Think of it as three P’s: preparation, productivity, and priorities.

Preparation

We’ve seen clients attempt to rush out presentations last minute hoping to achieve miracles — some do, but many ultimately fall short of expectations. A compelling presentation doesn’t happen overnight; even we ourselves, after so many years of experience, cannot create one in such limited time.

This is why we emphasize the necessity of having good work ethics which helps to keep you grounded and focused on creating the best you can. Before you even begin developing your presentation, it is important to acknowledge that preparation is key to creating a compelling one.

Constantly remind yourself of this as you go along as if you try to ‘wing it’, you’ll find yourself producing lacklustre results that not only reflect badly on you but also on your organization.

Productivity

Regardless of why you’re creating this presentation, you’ll likely have other tasks on your plate. Managing your time is incredibly important, as it is easy to lose track of time and find yourself rushing through slides last minute. If you rarely do presentations or this is your first time, plan carefully the steps you’ll need to take. Decide how much time you can and should spend on each step, then start working on your presentation. Diving in without any planning in advance will cause you to waste time not really doing anything.

Priorities

Understanding what your priorities are for the presentation helps in increasing your productivity. For example, think of the standard your presentation must achieve before you can share it. Your utmost priority is to ensure that your presentation reaches that standard minimally. Even if things go wrong, having a presentation that is good enough is better than having none.

Conclusion

The making of a great PowerPoint presentation is not easy and we know that. We’ve worked on countless presentations over the years- yet from time to time, we still face difficulty in trying to present our clients’ materials in the best way possible. What helps us is a set of tried and tested methods that serve as our foundation, some of which we’ve shared with you today. The tips offered in this guide are not overly complicated and should be mastered so you can work towards creating your own set of compelling and effective slides. We believe that with practice, you too, can create your best PowerPoint presentation effortlessly. Good luck!

22 Questions to Ask to Sound Smart in Meetings

On average, an employee spends more than 6,000 hours in meetings throughout his entire career. That’s almost nine months! With all the employees involved and numbers of hours spent in meetings, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd and impress others. Here are some tricks that one can use during a meeting to make you look smart. You may even recognize some which are used by others.

1. “Will it scale?”

This has been voted one of the most asked during a meeting but it’s a question surprisingly few people can answer. Scalability usually refers to the growth of certain areas. It can be used in a technological, social or environmental context. Companies want to grow and innovate, so asking this question is like digging into the future of an organization. Someone has to answer this unmeasurable question, and the answer lies in the department heads.

2. “Let’s take a step back, what exactly are we trying to solve?”

Everyone is contributing ideas to the meeting, and you have gone blank for two minutes with no idea of what is going on. What should you do when it is your turn to speak up? Bring the crowd back to the original objective of the meeting by asking “Let’s take a step back, what exactly are we trying to solve?”. No one will realise that you just answered a question by asking another one.

3. “What do YOU think about this?”

This one is for when you finish a presentation and your colleagues go quiet and avoid eye contact. It’s a conversation starter, and while it can be scary to put someone on the spot, it is a surefire way to make sure that you squeeze additional insights out of attendees of the meeting who aren’t usually one to raise their voice. Do not pick the same person every time though, as it’s the quickest way to make an enemy. Vary the answers. Win-Win!

4. “How can I be of greater help on that?”

By asking this question, it shows that you think independently and are willing to carry more responsibilities. You are outstanding at your assigned duty and are capable of accomplishing more. Moreover, this reveals your leadership skills as you are putting yourself in the CEO’s shoes by asking “What can you do for your company?”. Every CEO wants his/her employees to be engaged and efficient.

5. “I think this is beneficial to our department, however, I want to be sure the same goes to the marketing team.  Do we have a strategy to [work with them]?”

Organizational silo is every CEO’s nightmare. HR managers spend hours trying to set up lunch events and happy hours to get every employee involved. Your boss or the CEO would be thrilled if each department asks this question. It shows that you value teamwork and are willing to cooperate.

6. “Whom else have we talked to about this?”

This question is highly appreciated by the managers since departments have their own meetings. There is little chance that different departments have meetings together. Having meetings with different departments helps increase productivity. Sometimes outsiders can spot the key solution for current challenge by bringing in fresh eyes and minds. In fact, studies show that 72% of award-winning projects are combinations of inputs by knowledgeable people and complete outsiders.

7. “Is this the correct direction we are taking?”

By asking is the company is heading in the right direction, it shows that you have thoroughly thought about the plan in discussion. It allows people to reflect on the issues. Also, it shows that leadership skills you have and you are guiding the crowd towards the goal.

8. “What are the milestones?”

Asking someone about milestones allows that person to rethink the sustainability of their plans. It is extremely important to set milestones throughout the process since almost no plan is achieved without adjustments. Therefore, setting up milestones gives employees achievable goals and room for adjustment.

9. “How can this benefit our company?”

Any talk or plan would be useless if the company cannot extract profit. It also shows that you think like the CEO and are concerned about the profitability of the company. After all, individual departments tend to focus on their own operations and may overlook the big picture.

10. “Why are we not doing that?”

The right questions to ask when deciding on a specific strategy would be “why are we doing this” and “why are we not doing that”. When confronted with these two questions, people are forced to think about the merits and demerits of choosing one over the other. It shows your ability to think ahead and guide the crowd as a leader.

11. “Would you mind clarifying that again”

When someone in a meeting uses a relatively technical term that you are having difficulty understanding, ask the person to explain again. Nobody expects you to be a genius. If you are struggling to keep up, ask them to clarify what they mean. You will most likely not be the only one in the room who does not understand. Even you have little knowledge about the term, by asking, you can get the explanation without admitting that you are lost.

12. Use abbreviation “What is our MRR next month? How this helps in reducing our CPU?”

Whenever someone uses abbreviated business terms in meetings, I personally admire them more. It shows their immense knowledge pool and sophisticated mind. Or…you just end up looking like a douche. You can at the same time show off and confuse people, they will be impressed even though they might not know what these terms mean.

13. “I’ll email the summary of what we have discussed”

To make you look extra caring during a meeting, tell them that you are going to send a short summary of the meeting. You can jot down the main points of the meeting as you go along, but also be sure to make an audio recording in case you miss something. It shows that you care about the meeting and value the content.

 14. “ Should we be doing this instead of that?”

This question shows that you have knowledge of all the available options for the project. By asking this question, you allow everyone to step back and consider the options and show how much you value the benefits to the company.

  15. “WHY is not the question but HOW?”

This question allows your colleagues to re-evaluate the feasibility of the project and focus on the procedures it takes to get it done. Your colleagues may not necessarily fully understand the actions needed to accomplish the projects. Therefore, it is important and smart to ask how to reach goals.

16. “What are the details of this plan?”

When someone puts out a plan that seems too good to be true, ask them this question. It shows whether the plan is merely conceptual or if the presenter has prepared details to substantiate it and show its feasibility. It is a good question to keep the conversation going and get everyone involved.

17. “How can we attract customers that are as influential as our existing ones?”

Ask questions using examples of big customers that ideally were brought in by you and your team. It presents people with excellent work that you and your team have worked hard to secure. Alternatively, you can use other examples to show others that you are knowledgeable about the company’s performance.

18. “Can we have a more detailed conversation after lunch?”

When people raise questions that you cannot answer or do not have the materials to support, use this sentence. It will buy you some time to prepare your response. Others will think that the content is too important or too long to be discussed over a meeting.

19. “It has been proven that our strategy has worked out, there was a 20 per cent increase in…..”

Providing evidence or data about the company’s current situation shows that you are aware of the company’s operations and you are not making up your statements. Your CEO will be delighted that an employee is keeping track of the company’s performance.

20. “I personally consider the other plan more interesting but this one is the most beneficial for the company for now…”

When you have a personal preference for a certain plan but also feel that another plan would be more suitable for the company, you can express the reasoning behind your choice. It shows that you have been thinking critically about the company’s interests and are able to justify your ideas.

21. “[Name] in the product department said that they are having….”

When mentioning or quoting your colleagues from another department, you show your respect and connection with your colleagues. It emphasizes that you have good relationships with other departments and are involved in ongoing communication with them.

22. “Are there any more questions regarding the presentation?”

Always use this question as the ending of a presentation. It gives the impression that you are well-prepared with relevant knowledge and are able to take on any questions regarding your presentation topic.

Conclusion

Meetings can get boring, and yes, it is very hard for us all to stay focused for the entire time. But with a few of these questions up your sleeve, you’ll not be left looking clueless.

Handling a meeting is quite the art, but it’ll be a breeze once you master the skill of asking the right questions and demonstrating your insights and abilities through your speech. Show your skills off at the next meeting you attend and sit back as you see the room listen and pay attention.

May the force be with you!