I worked with a very successful entrepreneur who had a knack for giving memorable presentations. It was his talent. He would put together some of the most compelling and visually appealing presentations I’d ever seen. The research that went into his presentations was impressive – with facts and validations from the most credible of sources. The images that would accompany his words were of the highest caliber – often made exclusively for his presentations, appearing to have been done by a skilled artist. Didn’t take long for his presentations to become somewhat legendary amongst the circles we rolled in. He took much pride in that fact, working tirelessly in the days leading up to make sure his newest presentation was always better than the last; and never the same, even though the spirit of the message frequently was.
He had two people who would help him prepare, a designer and an editor. It was quite the production, and the effort showed. However, as time went on, and he became exceedingly busy, traveling from one meeting to the next all over the world, he delegated almost all aspects of the presentation, whereas in the early days he would only outsource the editing and visuals. The spirit of the message, all the research that went into the process, and the general flow of the presentation had been his brainchild, until he delegated everything.
Great Presentations Require Great Research from the Presenter
A critical element of any presentation is making it fit into modern day issues – making it relatable if you will. How do you do that? Research, of course, which is also the most time-consuming task of any good presentation. Research will help validate your thesis while giving you ideas on how to articulate your most important points for the presentation. It helps you understand many new trends that are on people’s minds; and it prepares you, the presenter, for questions that may come up from the audience. If the research is thorough, the presenter has the opportunity to become an authority on the subject matter – one of the primary goals of a presentation.
Just from a human being perspective, research is what keeps you sharp, interesting and prepares you for a challenge/rebuttal.
Bottom line: If you want to be a great presenter, you can’t outsource the research process. Yet that’s precisely what this gentleman ended up doing.
Entrepreneurs Can’t Outsource Research
Before outsourcing the research process for his presentations, a process which often gave him new ideas to pursue, I had seen probably 20 of his presentations. They were crisp, compelling and he would always bravely open up the Q&A period extra early – even going so far as to encourage members of the audience to ask questions whenever they came to mind. He loved audience questions because it gave him the opportunity to show off his knowledge and potentially sway those on the fence. Questions gave him the chance to become an authority.
After seeing three or four of his presentations which were unusually underwhelming and quite dull, I sat down with him to try and probe to find out what was going on in his life. He seemed distracted while presenting and would go off on tangents about the minutia, which bores a new audience to death. I also noticed in these lackluster presentations he told the audience there was only time ‘for a couple of questions.’ That was virtually the exact opposite of what he used to do. Frankly, the drop off in his presentation quality made me think he was having issues in his personal life. But when we chatted after one of those poor presentations, he told me everything was all good in his life, no issues whatsoever. However, he mentioned he was swamped and had little ‘extra’ time.
He said, and I remember it clearly,
“It’s been great. I’ve got a team that takes care of my presentations. So now instead of taking 10 to 15 hours to prepare, it’s done in a couple hours… I just don’t have the time anymore to do them.”
He couldn’t see it because all he paid attention to was the time-saving. The reality was, his presentations went from an A+ to a C-. This carried on for about two more years. It got to the point where his lack of research began to show (the person he delegated that task to wasn’t doing it justice). His presentation subject matter and comparisons became dated, and he was no longer on the cutting edge of the industry in which he was playing in. I won’t delve into the details, but his business suffered because of it.
Successful Entrepreneurs Dedicate a lot of Time to Preparation
The point is, never delegate the research process. Reading and researching are part of what makes you interesting, relevant and ready for any tough questions which may come your way. In the venture capital space, if done right, research is what makes you rich – or at the very least it saves you a lot of money.
Research is an essential practice of being a successful entrepreneur, no matter the industry. The moment you delegate the ‘learning process,’ which is what researching is, you stop growing and improving as an entrepreneur. It’s the equivalent of preparing for a championship sports game, but not training your muscles in the weight room. You can’t have someone else do it for you.
PS – I’ve walked the walk as an entrepreneur and startup investor. Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter below to help you along throughout your entrepreneurial journey. Only my best content will land in your inbox.