Fun Way To Make Your Presentation Interactive

Recently I was asked to put together a presentation on content I was very unfamiliar with, yet the asker wanted it also to be interactive. After I suppressed my surge of nervousness, I got to work trying to come up with interactivity ideas. The problem I kept running into was that my lack of knowledge of the content would shine through the more I interacted with the crowd — a crowd who was very familiar with the content. 

I started asking around the office for ideas, and that’s when I was recommended MentiMeter.com . And this software/website in the free trial version saved the day! Menti allows you to ask the crowd a question and the audience responds through their phones or computers. The results are presented real time on the administrators portal, which you can project to the crowd. What’s especially cool is that you can have the audiences results in a variety of ways. Their submissions can pull up in word cloud form, where the most common responses are given a larger text size, or you could have the audience place their response within a two dimensional matrix, or along the spectrum. Or you can ask a survey question with defined answers, or leave it open ended.  There are many other options but these were the only ones I looked into for my use case.  

The one drawback I found was that the free version only gives you freedom to use these cool formats for two slides. After that I believe you are forced to ask multiple choice questions on your remaining slides. You can increase your slide count if you invite others to use the service via email,  or I supposed if you had multiple email accounts you could set up a few two slide presentations on multiple accounts.  But cough, cough I have no idea who would do something like that.  Of course there is also a paid version, but not knowing how it would all work out, I didn’t look into the cost or the additional features you get from paying.  But based on my last experience, as long as it’s not outrageously expensive I think it’s definitely worth considering. 

This presentation software (Menti) enabled me to engage and interact with audience without having to let on that I want that familiar with the content. Instead I simply asked authentic questions I was interested in learning and let the audience loose. With the real time feedback of the audience in an anonymous setting sparkled a ton of conversation.  This is especially important if you have a very hierarchical audience where once the highest ranking person speaks everyone else in the room simply tries to support/uplift their leader’s commentary. With Menti that’s an added benefit — the audience doesn’t know who wrote what. And finally, one additional feature I liked was that you could email the deck or individual slides to the audience members so they have quick reference to the topics that were discussed and important on the day. No more need to compile white board or poster paper notes and send them off to the audience. Their responses (i.e., the audience generated) notes are all captured real time. 

Overall, I loved the Menti experience and would recommend it to others looking for a cool way to make their presentation interactive.  My only word of advice is to pasty around with it for a few days before the presentation…everything is pretty intuitive but some of the response modules can take awhile to think how you want to set them up to incite the most conversation. I had an wesome experience, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to others

Impress Through Your Knowledge – Isomorphism

Isomorphism (and its various forms), although originally a sociology term, is also a very important term to understand in the realm of business. Generally speaking, the term means imitating another organization’s structures or processes. This similarity could be caused by a number of factors and therein lies the need for the earlier parenthetical call out of isomorphism’s “various forms.”

Isomorphism in all of its beautiful forms:

Mimetic Isomorphism – imitating another successful company or organization in the belief that it will bring your company similar success.

Cartoon example of mimetic isomorphism







Coercive Isomorphism – imitating other companies through the force of regulation or other expectations of a governing body or the public at large

Cartoon example of coercive isomorphism







Normative Isomorphism – imitation brought on by professions, professional organizations, licensing, or inter-organization norms.

Cartoon example of normative isomorphism







For more information about the author check out his LinkedIn Profile: Brian Dick

Great Presentations Made Easy

How to give great presentationsGiving high quality presentations is a critical skill in nearly any corporate position. Presentations are how you promote your ideas, incite change, and get yourself noticed! Luckily giving and creating presentations are both skills that can be developed and honed by keeping a few key points in mind. Follow these few key principles, and practice, and you will be on your way to your next promotion!


1.) Understand your audience’s motivations – this seems obvious, but it’s surprising how many people forget this step. A presentation is almost always a sales pitch for something you want, or something that you want others to do for you. In order to sell anything, you need to know the key motivators in your audiences’ decision making process. You should then craft your message around these motivators. Also make sure to understand your audiences’ hurdles to implementation or increased workload. Try to minimize these issues for your audience beforehand, or at the very least, acknowledge that you know that challenges exist.

2.) Solutions first – Your recommendation or solution should be presented early in the presentation. This concept is also true on a slide-by-slide basis — the solution/recommendation should be in the title, subheading, or first bullet at latest. Build the deck so someone would be able to understand your point by skimming through the headlines of your deck. The body of the slide should be used to support or ‘prove” your position. This concept is a challenge, particularly for those who recently graduated. Academic slides are typically crafted exactly the opposite. They are designed to encourage students to craft their own opinion from the information presented. This doesn’t work in the business setting, where people are pressed for time, and simply want the answers.

3.) Tell a story – Peoples’ brains retain more information when it’s prepared in narrative form. By giving your presentation with a clear beginning, middle, and end, while flowing smoothly will help your audience follow along, and remember the content. Achieve a story-like presentation by creating an outline of your deck before creating it. Also, practice the presentation before giving it, but speaking it out loud. This may seem like an unnecessary step, but reading through the slides out loud helps to uncover major gaps in the storytelling process. Reserve a meeting room for yourself, and practice — out loud!

4.) Catch phrases get quoted – it’s always a good idea to have a good catch phrase or quote to include, and call out visually in your presentation. Think up a slogan that supports the main idea of your presentation. Speak the slogan early and often throughout the presentation. Additionally use block quotes to call out other one-liners that support your slogan. By doing this, you will burn your main idea into your audiences head. When they think of your presentation, they will be able to distill it mentally into your slogan. You and your ideas will be more memorable. (When you start doing this — watch how quickly others in your company start copying this tactic….it’s difficult not to notice how effective it is, when bosses start gingo around mentioning your catchphrases.)

5.) The appendix is for proof – complicated and data-filled charts are hard to read and follow. You want simple and easy charts for your audience. The chart should be able to convey your message without you being there. With that being said making charts that simple can be extremely difficult and can leave out other important details. In order to maintain your credibility and be able to explain your charts if necessary, make sure you put the supporting (more complicated) data in the appendix. The chart in your presentation should tell your story, and the data in the appendix should tell the chart’s story.

6.) Executive summarize – similar to the solutions first recommendation, higher level leaders rarely have time for long complicated decks, and often leave early for other meetings or answer emails throughout the meeting. By providing a clean and simple executive summary they are able to get the gist of your presentation without them sitting through your entire presentation. If they do stay, the executive summary will help them follow your story logically and easily. (If your company’s culture allows for it, it would be good to disallow the use of phones and computers before your meeting begins. Also offer to reschedule the meeting if key audience members need to leave early. You will have worked hard on your presentation, and making it easy to understand — demand that the audience gives you the attention you deserve.)

7.) Silence is a tool – this is surprisingly one of the most difficult ones for people to remember. By feeling comfortable with silence, you will feel less obligated to fill space with filler words (ex: ums, ah’s, so’s), and filler content (i.e., bullshit). Additionally, by allowing for periodic silence, you will give your audience time to think about and process your information.  Silence will actually omit a sense of confidence in your content. It may seem counter intuitive, but pay attention to good presenters in your company  — I bet they use this skill whether they realize it or not. (Slight Heads Up: Learning the meaning of your audience’s silence will take a bit of practice, and will require the reading of body language. An audience’s silence typically represents confusion or implicit understanding of your content — two almost completely opposite responses — so the right read on this will be critical. Test it out your first few presentations, by verbally confirming understanding with your audience after allowing for a few moments of silence.)

8.) Practice makes a presentation – whether you think you’re a great presenter or not, be sure to practice your presentation ahead of time. Reading through your presentation as you intend to present it ensures the story flows as you envision it in your mind. Reading it out loud also helps to determine where key places of emphasis should be made, and where hand gestures may help. Practicing is particularly important when a specific amount of time is alloted. The time you think it will take, is rarely the time it actually takes. Usually when you are watching great presenters, you’re actually watching a great “practicer.”

Try out these tips in your next few presentations. More specific presentation recommendations to follow in future articles!


Building My Business: Meeting a Possible Supplier

This Tuesday I met with a possible supplier/private label roaster. I found his company online, and sent an email to see what services he offered. I asked if he offered/was interested in private label roasting for me. He surprised me, first by even returning my email, and then by graciously inviting me too his shop. He mentioned he had done private label roasting before and could be interested in doing it again. 

The conversation went exceptionally well! The guy was interesting and obviously extremely passionate about coffee. He explained his background, as did I, and we quickly began talking about my plan to focus on high caffeine content coffee offerings. He was extremely knowledgeable and interested in my idea (albeit with a fair bit of skepticism. .. he clearly viewed coffee as a delicious drink to be cherished and enjoyed, not as simply a vehicle of caffeine as I do.)

He let on that he’d be willing to order a trial volume (150 lb bag) with which he would test roast to see what works for me. Then he described packaging and labeling options. He offered the whole array of services I would need. I didn’t inquire into fulfillment services and don’t plan to until/if sales volumes get sizable.

So now it seems the ball is back in my court. Since I don’t want to have a giant inventory of perishable coffee before I have the abilty to sell it, I need to work on a few things before I commit to the trial run. My plan before ordering the coffee is:

1.) Create minimum viable operational website for sales
2.) Get EIN number
3.) Set up Google ads
4.) Get business bank account
5.) Create label art

So now I’m off to bed excited about the progress that I, the procrastinator, have made. I’m also happy with the clear plan/steps I have been able to set up as next steps towards actual sales

Building My Business: Finding a Private Label Roaster

One thing I know for certain is that I don’t want to set up a roasting operation for the coffee I sell – at least right away. First, it would be far too expensive and risky to sink that type of money into getting a roaster and a facility to house it. I don’t have that type of money to begin with, and it would suck if no one bought the coffee and I got stuck with a giant ass roaster. Secondly, I don’t know/nor do I want to know what regulations come with processing a food/beverage product. I’d rather not deal with this headache unless I’m selling sizable and regular volumes. For that reason I am looking for a private label roaster — aka someone who will roast and package the beans under my brand and direction.

I began my search online, and found far more private label roasters than I expected. (Could be a good thing could be a bad thing, don’t know yet) Luckily, during my search, I found a roaster here in central ohio and the owner has offered to meet and let me see is his operation. We are planning to meet in a week.

This was not the first roaster I reached out to. I emailed at least 3-4 roasters and this was the first one to return my email. I’m excited that I’m making this progress, but I also want to make sure I’m prepared for this meeting. I want to know as much as I can about the roaster’s company (it’s also a full on coffee shop) as well as myself appropriately. What I’m thinking so far is.

1.) I want to be completely honest with him that this will be a learning experience for me and I’d likely not be able to provide large or consistent orders up front.

2.) I want to have a more realistic looking template created to show my vision.

3.) Make sure he can source robusta beans (highest caffeine content), and they know how to roast to maximize caffeine content.

4.) I want a logo ready and crafted so I can discuss labeling options.

5.) Determine where I want my margins to be so that I can propose desired pricing given my forecasted retail price.
6.) Ask what packaging options are available and the shelf life (and/or ability to roast to order)

7.) Determine shipping or fulfillment options. Not that it would be a big deal since we’re in the same city, but if I never have to handle the coffee that would be ideal. I want this to be as passive as I can possibly make it.

8.) Explore caffeine testing devices to see if I can substantiate high caffeine claims.

Wish me luck.

Building My Business: Creating an LLC

Sorry folks, it’s been quite awhile since my last update on starting my business. My regular full-time job has been very busy, and as I believe I’ve mentioned before, I’m naturally a bit of a procrastinator (a trait that I very much need to work on…later.) I’ve thought about the concept a lot, but I haven’t actually committed to moving forward. I’ve been piddling around thinking about what business idea to use in my case study, and I’ve been second guessing myself every time I think I have something nailed down. I knew I had to do something to jump start my progress. That’s when I began researching the process of setting up an LLC.

I knew needed an LLC, and I knew that I wanted to call my company Cube Lion — but I didn’t know what the process entailed. I was worried it was going to cost a lot, or that I would have to commit to a business idea in the form I filled out. This worry alone, embarrassingly enough, delayed my research a few days — I didn’t want to get bad news this early on in the process.

What I found surprised me…in a good way. (note: what I’m about to explain is for Ohio-only, because that’s what state I filed in, but I’m assuming your state would be fairly similar.)

  1. It wasn’t expensive at all…it was $125 to fill out and submit the form
  2. It wasn’t restrictive on business idea at all. The form literally made this portion optional. All I basically had to do was say the name of the company I wanted to start, and mark if it was for profit or not for profit!
  3. Even though I filled in the form and submitted online, I learned the place to turn it in was on the bottom floor of the building I work in…it was a bit of an omen that I needed to get off of my ass and turn it in.

So after filling in the form, I expected to wait a couple of weeks to hear back (because that’s what the form said, and it gave options to pay up to $100-$400 dollars to have it expedited). DON’T PAY TO EXPEDITE. I heard back within a couple of days at the most. They were very quick, and said “I was approved to conduct business in the state of Ohio.” Just reading that gave me a little jolt of electricity. I know now the next steps are to file for an EIN number, and open a business bank account. Both things I will need to do more research on, but I believe should be fairly easy given the info I have now.

If you also live in the state of Ohio you can fill out the online LLC forms here. The site looks a bit janky, but it definitely works and is fairly straight forward. The site also provides a little checklist/how to set up an LLC .pdf .

I’ve made a bit more progress on the business idea before and after the LLC setup (but the LLC was the major hurdle…the smaller steps/thoughts I’ve had are listed below.

  1. I’ve decided to move forward with the coffee concept. I want to focus on high caffeine beans and roasts. My idea is to focus on a niche that views coffee as a tool and not a beverage (just like I do.) I honestly can’t really tell the difference between a “good” cup of coffee or “bad” cup of coffee, I just love the jolt it gives me and the productivity it allows me to achieve at work. I drink coffee to wake me up and fuel me through my day. I don’t drink it because it tastes good.
  2. I want to use the fairly arbitrary “brand” Cube Lion to see if I have the marketing and brand chops to make this work. I’ve recently interviewed for a marketing role, and was turned down. Out of personal pride, and a bit of spite, I want to prove that they made a bad decision (they said I didn’t communicate my ability to transfer my current skillset to a more consumer facing role.)
  3. I’ve taken my CubeLion domain that I already owned for a year or so, and put installed Prestashop on it. I chose Prestashop after a few hours of research. My decision ultimately came down to the fact that I’ve already worked in setting up a Prestashop site about a year or two ago (when I tried to sell pull up attachments…I bailed on the plan because I was still in grad school, and figured I should have a boatload of insurance on a product like that given injury risk.) To get a feel for what the heck pull up attachments are, I’ve included a video below of my concept.

Leaders Must Document Everything to Protect Themselves (pt. 2)

When to document as a leader

Managers: Document Everything!

This is a continuation of our earlier post: Leaders Must Document Everything to Protect Themselves

Documentation is also critical when reprimanding an employee. When the time comes that you must inform an employee of improper behavior, it’s critical that you document both the event that caused the confrontation, and your meeting with the employee. Through your documentation you are demonstrating the seriousness of the situation to the employee, and you are also protecting yourself from retaliation if the employee is found continually breaking the rules.

If the situation is serious enough, be sure to include a third party in your interaction with the employee. By including HR, EH&S, or higher-level management (whichever is applicable) in your meeting with the employee, you are ensuring that there will be multiple perspectives of the interaction. Have the third party record notes in the conversation, as well. (A lot of companies offer a third-party (outside company) hotline to call to help direct you in your conversation with the employee. These hotlines often ensure that what you are reprimanding the employee for is fair, and if a similar instance has occurred within your company. In the event the occurrence has already happened within your company, it’s important that you consider following the precedent set. In this way you can help to eliminate claims of unfairness, “targeting”, or discrimination.)

An example of such a document may read like this:


On Thursday, 3/14 it was brought to my attention by Stephanie (Operations Lead) that you had left for break without returning your forklift to its properly designated parking position. When Stephanie confronted you about your parking infraction, you claimed that you rushed to park because you were returning from the far end of the warehouse and you didn’t want less time at break than you deserve.

This morning on 3/15, Alan and I (Operations Manager) have had a conversation regarding the incident, and Alan was informed if future parking infractions occurred he would be immediately placed on final warning. Alan was provided with the following information (below), acknowledged that he understood, but refused to sign the document. I have noted his refusal to sign at the bottom of the document, under his printed name, but our HR representative Kim Tomkins was also present in our meeting to corroborate the discussion.

1. Parking regulations were enacted for safety and space constraints. If lifts are not parked properly, there is not enough room to safely park all equipment. One mis-parked lift causes other lifts to be parked in operationally active areas which impacts other departments not on break. By not parking your lift properly, you are causing safety violations slowing other departments. Employees are informed of these regulations during our lift certification programs. Alan attended this program and has signed his certification papers which confirms that he had received and understood all training. This confirmation, along with the parking safety portion of the training can be provided from his file. After this incident, any future parking violations by Alan will put him immediately to “Final Warning.”

2. Alan understands that break time has already been extended in order to account for transit from any portion of the building. Regardless of which portion of the building Alan is returning from when break is called, there is no excuse for improper parking.

3. Alan has verbally agreed to everything documented in this note, but has refused to sign. I acknowledge his right to refuse to sign, but I have also asked HR representative Kim Tomkins to be present during our interaction so that she can corroborate his receiving this information. I have also called the Guidance Hotline to record my intention to confront Alan on this issue before Alan and I met. The conversation with the Guidance Hotline has been recorded and I was given the confirmation code: 12xy83 in the event this recording is desired. Guidance Hotline has also sent a confirmation email of the conversation, which I can also provide if needed.

John McMann (Operations Manager)

Alan Touring (Inbound Associate)

Kim Tomkins (Regional HR Supervisor)

Laffer Curve

Laffer Curve – Is a curve that depicts the relationship between the tax rate applied to (usually) income and amount of income tax collected. The upside down parabola basically explains that as tax rates rise, the amount of taxes collected increases until it reaches a maximum taxation rate threshold after which the amount of tax revenues collected quickly diminishes even at higher tax rates. The diminishing revenues portion of the curve is used to explain how once taxes become so high, the taxed population either begins lying about their income to avoid the higher taxation, or leaves the area where the taxes are being applied.