James Ontra is changing the way the enterprise world thinks about its most undervalued asset — the presentation. As CEO and co-founder of Shufflrr, James is blazing a trail in the emerging new discipline of presentation management.
The technology he helped create is already powering the presentation strategies of hundreds of Fortune-level companies, helping them save millions of dollars by transforming humble PowerPoint slides into invaluable business assets.
[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]
Umar Hameed 0:01
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone! My name is Umar Hameed, I'm your host on the No Limits Selling Podcast where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how you can become better, stronger, faster. Just before we get started, I've got a question for you, do you have a negative voice inside your head? We all do, right? I'm gonna help you remove that voice and under 30 days guaranteed, not only remove it, but transform it. So instead of the voice that sabotages you, there's one that propels you to much higher levels of performance and success. There's a link in the show notes, click on it to find out more. All right! Let's get started.
Umar Hameed 0:41
Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of the No Limits Selling Podcast where we talk to leaders to figure out how they connect with people how they influence people. And on today's show, I have the privilege of having James Ontra here with me. And he's an expert at communicating and getting people to push the buy button. James, welcome to the program.
James Ontra 1:00
Thank you. It's good to be here. Thank you, Umar.
Umar Hameed 1:03
So oftentimes, uh, I came across this study, and you may have come across it too, where they asked drivers, are you in the top? Where do you rank yourself as a driver, and people rank themselves in the top 10%. And of course, not everybody can be in the top 10%, people often suck at driving. But we have this illusion that we're better than we are and by the way, James, that's why God created espouses to let us know when we're off track. But the same?
James Ontra 1:27
So close to reality.
Umar Hameed 1:28
Yeah, the same thing is true for presentations, we have a clear idea of what we want to communicate but oftentimes we do it so badly. So talk to me about you've worked with some of the largest brands in the world. And oftentimes, I'm sure they think they're communicating really succinctly and powerfully, and oftentimes they're not. So explain how you get them to realize that and how you get them to recraft the communication so they get the results they want.
James Ontra 1:53
Yeah, that makes sense. I've spent my career in and out of presentations, whether it's in a big conference hall, or it's distributing with technology with an individual salesperson going to the client sitting in setting up and doing a pitch to you know, what's happened with COVID and having libraries of slides. But the the method, the methods that go into it are all the same and it's really important. One of the basic methodologies and I you know, you can think about Hollywood with this is every presentations, a story, every slides a scene. So when you put a slide up, what is the emotion you want the person to see? What is the knowledge you want them to get? Do you think about moving them in a certain area with slide one, and then following up with power in the backend? These type of structures are critical to help moving people along.
Umar Hameed 2:49
And I'll just going to clarify something there. You said, what's the emotion you want them to see? I don't want them to see it. I want them to feel it.
James Ontra 2:56
Yeah, I think that's better articulated. Well, for example, I'll give I'll give an example of something early in my career. I when I was early in the late 90s, in New York, and we were working on laptop presentations for NBC to sell their Olympic, their Olympic advertising. And we all know being involved in the Olympics is prestigious, and lots of people watch it. And they can do the Nielsen numbers to calculate you know, a million eyes versus how much it's worth it, to buy the ads and sell it. But what was the difference between a big sponsor Coca Cola committing $2 billion versus $1 billion. It's the emotion they felt during the presentation. It's how you connected them emotionally with the story before you gave them the analytics to build the the, the actual invoice that you're sending them. Here's the example. They started off with Muhammad Ali shaking and lighting the torch. You can see he was a great athlete in his day, but Parkinson's had had really done damage. But it inspired such so many people that after you watched a little clip of the Olympics, and you watch him lighting that torch, suddenly you're moved and you're like, "God, I want to be involved in this." Then all of your numbers thereafter the person is using those numbers to build their case to sell to buy the advertising.
Umar Hameed 4:27
James Ontra 4:27
If you haven't done that, they're just looking at numbers going okay, you've got 2000 eyes and I'm paying $10 for a set of eyes. And that's $20,000 per camera, you know, they can do the math, anyone can do the math. What's the difference? That's the emotional connection.
Umar Hameed 4:43
Absolutely. And oftentimes, you craft presentations, and we're going to talk about you know, some of the large brands that you've helped. But really what we're doing here with our audience is you too dear viewer, can...
James Ontra 4:56
Umar Hameed 4:56
...craft presentation and use the same techniques to get people to say yes more often. So oftentimes you can craft the presentation, but two people can deliver it. And one person can deliver it with immense power, and the other person can deliver it and not too powerful. So how do you coach people to breathe life into the presentation?
James Ontra 5:18
I find you that he, the sooner you make the person, the presenter, more comfortable with the content and the words coming out of their mouth. That makes all the difference. Let me give an example. Don't start a presentation with three bullet points in three big words. Because everyone will read the words, they'll understand it. Think of what a meme is, a meme makes you think there's some contrast, there's something about it, if you can make that first slide a meme or just a big image of something that you know what to say based on that image. When you look up at the image, and it's not, you know, system service and value, it is someone smiling at the cash register, and you know, it's system service and value, you are personally going to deliver those words, the way you're comfortable doing it. And that's the comfort level you need to do. So a simple, simple process, try to eliminate all the words off your screen on something that sets it up, put an image up, there could be clipart, could search it from the web, whatever it might be, and see if you deliver the same message. If you can do that, when you do that you get, you get a more emotive response.
Umar Hameed 6:36
James Ontra 6:36
Then you can go into your numbers
Umar Hameed 6:39
Agreed. True, but you can also have people that. So here's where I would disagree a little bit, James, we want people to be themselves, but frankly, some people are freaking boring. And so if there needs to be some coaching around it, in terms of from my point of view, and you're the expert here, is that the image that you select certainly has to have a trigger for you. So you know what you're talking about?
James Ontra 7:00
Umar Hameed 7:00
James Ontra 7:01
That's the whole point.
Umar Hameed 7:01
that image has, true. But I would say to add to that that image has to be invoke emotions that strengthen what you're about to talk about. So it's not just a trigger for you, what image
James Ontra 7:14
Umar Hameed 7:14
you will select that empowers the words you're about to speak. So there's a connection there, and it makes it more powerful.
Umar Hameed 7:20
Yeah, here's an example,
Umar Hameed 7:22
So how [garbled] doing that?
James Ontra 7:24
Actually being an expert in what you're doing and understanding it makes a difference. For example, if I was a plumber, and I was doing a presentation to my my, my local plumbers that are also plumbers, my first slide wouldn't be, you know, leaks are our bread and butter, I would I would put a picture of the bent pipe underneath it dripping,
Umar Hameed 7:48
James Ontra 7:48
dripping and the noise dripping. And I'd be looking at and I said, "You hear that?" That's your cash register ringing.
Umar Hameed 7:56
I mean, that's genius.
James Ontra 7:57
I would move into, what?
Umar Hameed 7:59
James Ontra 8:01
Well, that's how you connect the two you use something that's right, if you were, let's say working in, in, you know, doing barn stuff and helping people manage their horses, it might be, you see that pile of hay that just fell over, that's your afternoon. It's trying to connect it with with the person and what you're doing with just something that feeds into it. If you're in a convenience store, it might be the ring from the person walking in and out of the front door [door bell], you know, and ooh, that means you're attentive, that's the moment your business starts when they walk out its ends, you know, I'm just ad libbing here. But that's what I'm talking about, taking something that's unique to your presentation. And, and just trying to capture their, you know, make a meme out of it. I mean, the world is built on me. We know that now.
Umar Hameed 8:56
Definitely. But going back to that because a lot of people that end up presenting, do not have that capability. They have the capability to communicate what they want to communicate. But what you just did there for us, especially the first example, like you hear that. And if you don't have a sound effect, everyone's going to be curious to what that is. And then when you tie the two, so how do you coach people so you create the presentation. So let's go back to a client of yours. You don't you can name names, but they know what they wanted to sell. But you crafted a presentation that told the story well that invoked emotions, that brought the numbers alive, so they justified why they want to say yes to you. So how do you go about crafting that and how do you coach people to deliver it because it probably isn't one person delivering it is probably many people delivering the same presentation.
James Ontra 9:45
It comes from finding the one unique commonality and and really the exercise is this rip away the words show me a picture that that tells me what your presentation is going to be and put it up there. Now, I'll use an example from a big corporation. I didn't craft this presentation, I delivered it and used it with technology and all this other stuff but it was brilliant. And it did very well. Um, Scripps Networks, they owned the Food Network, HGTV fine living great American country and one other another, another network that way. And to sell five different networks, it's like, oh, we do this and cooking, we do this in the house, we do this on vacation, what they did is they say what strings all this together, and they say, these are all lifestyle items. So they took a house, and they put each one of them as a pillar in front of the house, and what's in your house, while you cook an HGTV, you get to build your backyard in the pool, and find living, that's where you take your vacation, and great American country, you learn your your music and stuff and all of those make your home. So this is the lives you live and through your lives, we support it through our cable networks. And then every salesperson was able to cross sell every single network because it made sense to go from Rachael Ray, to making a 30 minute meal to someone on HGTV teaching you how to dig your own pool in the backyard, because now they're connected under your own roof. And even your vacation going away for fine living, or you like wines or whatever it is, that could be under your roof. And that's part of your life. But by stringing them together, putting them out there, ironically, Scripps Networks grew up to be bought by Discovery. But ironically, the senior management of Scripps or the senior management of Discovery Networks right now.
Umar Hameed 11:46
Brilliant. So thank you for sharing that. Because that actually is a great example of, in a typical presentation would be is, "Hey, guys, we need to sell these five things, and they're all connected, you go sell it, and the salespeople can't figure it out," and that's a perfect example of having a house doing that. So from your point of view,
James Ontra 12:05
Here's a slide that shows Food Network and HGTV together. And that's just one of the slides from that pitch. And it was a way that if you notice it, it's branded under the parent company, you don't see the Food Network brand, you don't see the HG just their logo, so it builds it as a structure.
Umar Hameed 12:23
Brilliant. Do you, other than create the presentations, do you do any coaching on how they deliver it?
James Ontra 12:29
We try not to at this point, we've done that through the years. A little bit of insight, I've done a lot of creative components of it at this point in our career where we're much more about the structure and strategy of delivering technically the presentations on a larger scale. But um, for me, I never want to hear, is that blue to Aqua, I swear we asked for sky blue.
Umar Hameed 12:59
James Ontra 13:00
Me personally, I'm just saying design is very subjective. And it requires a consultative approach. And it's and I can sit down and do that. That's not the core of our business today. But that is, you know, a good decade of my career prior to this.
Umar Hameed 13:18
Brilliant. So why don't we unite together, teach our viewers listeners how to put a simple presentation together. So I'm gonna let you pick the industry. What's the industry want to play with?
James Ontra 13:29
Um, I, should we do pharmaceutical, no, no, I know too much about that.
Umar Hameed 13:38
So I'll pick you up
James Ontra 13:39
About um, how about travel.
Umar Hameed 13:43
Alright, let's say travel in this day and age with COVID. So we'll add a wrinkle in it.
James Ontra 13:49
Umar Hameed 13:49
James Ontra 13:50
the COVID It's part puts a big wet blanket on a lot of it to begin with. So you want to A, one is travel as experiential. So you want to start out with making the person feel the experience they were about to feel to begin with because we go with emotions and then we...
Umar Hameed 14:10
James Ontra 14:11
...go with logic backup the emotion. So let's say it was a cruise even more challenging,
Umar Hameed 14:17
James Ontra 14:17
you're gonna want to start out to to show the open air life on a boat or on a ship way out in there with it maybe a video showing the activities that you haven't experienced in the past. Once you get the feeling like, "Gosh, I want to watch a show at night and have a drink and go to the state room and look at the stars over the ocean with my, with with my loved one and you set the stage." Then you follow in with the confidence that, "Hey, we are COVID friendly." This is not the shipping that you thought of 18 months ago when COVID started. We're actually on the on the cutting edge of of safety here and You know, throw some statistics, not one person's been six since we started up whatever it is. From that, you then remind them into the nuts and bolts of what's going on. We have 15, state rooms and 22 with a balcony. Did you know we have eight restaurants that are open full time for buffet, if you like dancing, and then you go through the pieces, and at the end, you say, you know, this wraps up with a one time cost that includes liquor, Wi Fi, your room boat, the whole nine yards, and you can be there today. And then you drive. Now, that's a way of structuring it, because you created the emotion you connected with someone, once you connected it, you gave them the security, and then you gave them the the actual evidence for them to reinforce their their sale. Because don't forget someone's gonna go home and say, "Hey, honey, do you want to take a cruise?" "Oh, Isn't it scary to go?" "Look at how much fun it is. Remember how this isn't goes?" "Oh, but what about this, and I need to be out there," he goes, "Well, cruises are the safest COVID place on the planet now you might not have known that." We went to the restaurant and five people were positive, they're just last year. No one's been positive on a cruise boat since two and a half years. I'm making that up, I don't know. But if you notice what I was talking about aren't bullets on a slide. Almost everything I said, creates visuals in your mind. Don't when you tell a story. Here, I'm going to take a step back. Everyone's a storyteller no matter how much you think you're not. And you were a storyteller when you were five years old, and your mother came in your room and said, Who made this mess and you got purple dragon fluid and knock the bookcase over and put away my choice? Well, you were a storyteller then. And you're a storyteller. Now, I'm not saying you're deceptive or anything, but you created a visual graphic that that the audience could grab on to to try to take them away. We might have been better at it when we were five years old. We are now
Umar Hameed 17:05
Absolutely. Human beings are meaning making machines. And the meanings we make are the stories we tell ourselves. And also at the dinner table every night, everybody's telling the story, how's your day, you're telling the story that would natural born storyteller, some of us much better than others but we're used to that. And stories invoke images in people's heads, and they invoke emotions.
James Ontra 17:27
Yep. And that's where memory comes from. And action.
Umar Hameed 17:31
Absolutely. And I think...
James Ontra 17:32
I want to point something out, they make they make that and they push emotion. If you go to the Latin meeting of emotion, take the E off of off of emotion. It's motion. emotions create motions. And when you talk about the movement of something, that's where the root of the word comes from. So if you want someone to move in a direction that buys your product that understands what you're doing, it's critical to create that emotion. Actually,
Umar Hameed 18:01
James Ontra 18:01
if you think about every political issue out there, they always start with emotion. Always. These people are being treated poorly, these people are being killed, these people don't have rights, these people are victims, this one's that. Everything that you're told, starts with emotion, and then...
Umar Hameed 18:19
And then the other side of the coin...
James Ontra 18:20
...the plane but our program is going to fix it and you need to vote for me because I'm going to fix the problem because you're so emotionally pissed off.
Umar Hameed 18:28
And the other way around, is these people have taken your jobs these people are and then they, "I got a way to fix this." Absolutely emotions.
James Ontra 18:35
But if emotion, it's just a different I'm making you mad there as opposed to making you envious or making you jealous or making you greedy, we can go through the seven sins, each one of the motions push you towards each one of them, and they play on it. I mean, quite frankly, if I make you hate somebody doesn't matter what their processes you already hate them. I don't care what comes out of their mouth, I already hate them.
Umar Hameed 18:58
James Ontra 18:42
I got, I don't you know, I'm not asking you to be intellectual.
Umar Hameed 19:03
So step one of any presentation is you need to sit down and say what's the emotion I want them to feel at the beginning of this presentation, and what's the emotion I want them to feel at the end of the presentation. The beginning of the presentation could find them for what we're about to do and at the end to give them the emotion to take the action we want them to take.
James Ontra 19:22
That's correct. And you want to fill it with the with the support data the the logical information in between because once you've made an emotional choice, "I want to go to Disney World," you hunt for you know the prices are actually cheaper than staying here. And you start looking at, "You know, we get two rights for one if we go on Tuesday," you once you've decided you build your case through logic and reason. Very rarely do people go to logic and reason and then end with emotion. Actually, it's the it's the foundation of scientific method starts with logic and reason and try To wipe the emotion out of it, so the the human element, you're actually dealing with a deductive reasoning, reasoned response, as opposed to a human response. And not not saying that's bad. I mean, you know, there's, there's no equation for love. That's a human response, that's an emotion response.
Umar Hameed 20:19
Yes, equation could be super sexy, and finds me attractive would be my recipe for love. But anyway,
James Ontra 20:26
Well, that might it might be, it might be the person who raised you through life. And you just love your your mother or grandmother or whatever it is, it
Umar Hameed 20:26
Oh, absolutely, yeah.
James Ontra 20:28
might be. It might be the place who accepted you when everyone else shunned you. And it's it's a boy scout club, or it's a church or it's a, a business group that accepted you when when you were shunned by other parts that love and emotion and connection come in ways that I think human beings can't quantify. And presentations, you kind of take a piece of that. And then you give the logic afterwards, because we all want the logic to back it up. What I'm feeling, I want to have logic to back it up. And actually, if you take it into politics, when people feel something, they look for the stories that reinforce their beliefs. And it's why all social media, they talk about engagement, what makes you engaged, something that moves you emotionally, something that feels like there's a victim out there, and you need to save and you can help, because it hurts you you don't want people to go hungry, therefore, showing a hungry child is going to get you to look at it, read the story, click on it, two ads are going to come through. And then you're going to say, "Golly, for 30 cents a day, I could feed one child in Africa. God, I'm there 30 cents a day."
Umar Hameed 21:49
James Ontra 21:50
I'm just a straight up ad that we've all seen that ad for $1 a day you can feed a child in Africa, I connected emotionally I gave your response. You have a number, I know I can do it, my coffee right now I spent four bucks at Starbucks. It's not even the sugar going in at this point. In any case, emotion and follow it up with logic and reason is the best structure for it.
Umar Hameed 22:16
Absolutely. So one of the things I like about your technology, and you and your sister head up a company called Shuffler, because right now at my computer that I'm looking at right now, I have probably 25 presentations, buried in different folders with some gems within those presentations that could be useful on the presentation I'm building now. And if I'm lucky enough, I seem to remember somewhere two years ago, and I'm never going to find it. So tell me what you guys do and how you solve that problem.
James Ontra 22:44
Okay, this is a two step process, we do it through what we call presentation management, it's a communication strategy, it's a technology strategy. And we use a method called structured storytelling. So you talked about having, you know, 50 presentations spread out on your, you know, download drive on your My Documents, they might be up on your Dropbox, maybe in an email, maybe on a thumb drive, wherever they might be, but they're disparate. And when you want to do another presentation, you start opening and closing and don't got to remember I did that presentation last summer and everyone clapped, can I get that slide back, and you spend time and effort doing that. And you're not the only one, there might be five people in your company doing the same thing. There might be 50, there might be 5000. So what we do differently is we go from a linear presentation, slide by slide by slide to a structured library of slides. So if you think of a table of contents for your for a book, there's who we are, what we do, how we do it, case studies. Now, when you upload a presentation to Shuffler, it visualizes every single slide, so you see them all, we get you to upload them, put them all in there and you can weed through all the duplicates. You say, "Oh, I need a timeline slide," and you click in timeline and you see there's five different slides that you've made with a timeline. You pick the best one, and you put it in the About Us section, because that's about your company. Maybe there's a bio slide that talks about the BIOS and you're like, "I have eight bios and this one has a different picture than that one, I like this picture. And this one describes my, my, my lifestyle better. Let's pick the best one and put it put it into the About Us." And then you go, "Oh God, what we do. I have this presentation about our printing press plant in New York. It's got a video in it, it's got a nice animation. It's even got a white paper talking about it. Let's put that in our New York section About As." And what it does is it weeds out all of the duplicate slides all the unnecessary slides and gives a slide library for you to go to. So that when you are ready to do a presentation, your slides are ready, we read it through there visually, they're available. You go, "I need the timeline, I'll take it, I drag it to the slide tray, I need the New York plant." Here's the slide, let's
Umar Hameed 25:08
James Ontra 25:08
it, I want the video of the overview. That's great. And when you're and then within five minutes, you're 90% of your way on your presentation. But what it does is it creates a enter a communication strategy, using your presentations as the, the medium for communications. And it keeps everyone singing off the same sheet of music, it keeps your direction more focused, you're looking every slide is pointing to the timeline are to the horizon. And when you take this to its logical end, where every presentation is a story and every slides is seen. Now you start having logic of how many times that slide was used in presentations, how many times how much time was spent on that slide, do our number one clients look at that slide or number one salesperson doesn't use this one, but uses our our benefits slide. Once you know that, that benefits slide, maybe it's worthy of putting an animation on it, maybe it's worth a video, because if it's used at times, then that's convincing people. And presentations are a method for convincing people to communicate. And I'm going to take a step back here is the modern advertising industry was created because basically a guy named David Ogilvy went to the corporate world and said, Give me all your advertising, marketing and sales dollars. In turn, I'm going to look at every medium of communication and give you a strategy for TV, radio, print billboards, and then the web thereafter. Each one of those categories, a whole industry is around it. You know, TV has an industry and sodas, you know, print in the smell of ink, and everything's involved in it. But if you go to TV, they realized if you go to like the Superbowl, a 15 second ad is worth $5 million. Why? Because they found a strategy that says getting it Hollywood actor and an exotic location with a great director and make a quirky, funny ad. And you're going to sell more widgets. And now 15 seconds is worth $5 million, or whatever it is. But did you notice one medium of communications that was left off that list?
Umar Hameed 25:13
James Ontra 27:22
Umar Hameed 27:24
James Ontra 27:25
Presentations were created when when a caveman wrote on the wall and tried to describe his his local stuff. That was a presentation to other people. Presentations are in every house of worship built through the Middle Ages, where you walk by a stained glass window, and the sun is beaming through it, giving you a slide of the actual act. So the illiterate public can walk by these acts and learn the story of that religion by visiting the the actual temple that they're in, or the church or the mosque or wherever it is. And those are presentations. Every university is built around lecture halls. Every lecture hall is built around a presentation. Whether it's a person talking or writing, or a person doing that with slides and a chalkboard presentations have been around longer than all those other mediums combined, yet they've never been managed as a communications medium on a large scale. That's what Shuffler is.
James Ontra 27:25
Brilliant. And just before we part company, a presentation is a resource that gets lost, you put time and effort in it. And it just gets lost in the files of history. And what you do is not lose that resource so people can actually use it and take oil, intellectual capital that was invested in making the first one still useful years later. So James, before we part company, I've got two questions for you.
James Ontra 28:49
Umar Hameed 28:49
Question number one, what is a mind hack or a technique you use to be more productive, happier, more successful? What's one tip you could give our listeners?
James Ontra 29:00
Every day is better than yesterday.
Umar Hameed 29:02
That mindset is rock solid. Before we started this recording, you actually articulated that and so you live it and you breathe it. Number two, what's a book you'd recommend that people read?
James Ontra 29:14
Other than my own? No [laugh].
Umar Hameed 29:16
Other than your own?
James Ontra 29:19
Umar Hameed 29:22
Would you recommend this one? Probably no?
James Ontra 29:25
That's a beautiful one. That would be I want that one myself. Now, actually, there's a book called play bigger. And it focuses on creating a category of a business online SAS and what it means to identify a an online SAS Type business. And I'll give a little example of it it is in the online business. There's a huge difference between first place and second place. The company that identifies the market and teaches people generally gets the lion's share of the business when competition comes in, customers go to the leader and the leader gets further and further and further away. I'll give a brief example before it goes in this. This book describes this whole phenomenon. Who was number two to Amazon?
Umar Hameed 29:25
James Ontra 29:27
What was number two Who is number two auction to eBay?
Umar Hameed 30:18
James Ontra 30:19
Who was number two to Google? who was number two to Salesforce, who was number two to Uber, you can say Lyft but the valuation is like 100 billion to 5 billion. I'm just saying. And, and that book, play bigger describes how to structure your business so that you are the leader in your category.
Umar Hameed 30:40
Brilliant. James, thank you so much for being on the show today. I really appreciate it and looking forward to our next conversation.
James Ontra 30:46
Thank you. It's a pleasure being here.
Umar Hameed 30:53
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there, that's going to teach you some insights from the world of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.