In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to give presentations to your team.

Internal presentations are very common in the startup world. And while these presentations can be very boring and packed with data, it doesn’t have to be. Learning how to make your presentations exciting will help a long way in communicating your message to your team.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about some mistakes people make when they give internal presentations, examples of good presentations, how to improve your presentations and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:29 Why this topic was chosen.

01:23 A big trend in internal communications.

03:20 How to present your data.

03:56 Why your presentations should have context.

04:27 How internal presentations are similar to speaking at conferences. 

05:00 An example of how to create good presentations.

07:14 How to improve your presentations.

07:45 How the best presentations have stories in them.

09:10 What teams need from presentations.

3 Key Points:

  • Internal communication is a very big topic.
  • People are not used to presenting.
  • People are overwhelmed by with too much information.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. And today on The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about something that plagues every company at some point. And Steli had an experience that I haven’t heard yet, or some experiences, so I’m dying to hear them and talk about this. But it’s basically the idea of how do you communicate internally inside your company? Steli, take it from here. Lead out.


Steli Efti: Yeah. There’s obviously the internal communication is such a big topic. The one thing that I’d like to zero in on, because we are going through this and I’ve just personally had to go through this a couple of times and I’m currently working with leadership at close on this, is when people who are leading teams are giving presentations either for those teams or company-wide. And this could be a monthly report, hey, let’s a summary of what happened last month and what we are projecting or our goals for next month. It could be a big project that was concluded or that is planned. Any kind of communication where somebody that is responsible for a project is sharing the learnings, pros and cons, or what has happened, or what is about to happen with people. One big trend that I see, one thing that I’ve seen again and again and again, is that people will go through the, this is a general communication challenge, they’ll go through the simple work of just collecting information. So let’s say I’m running a sales team. February concluded, so I’m doing a summary of what happened in February and it’s a slide, and let’s say there’s six bullet points and it goes, we had a, whatever, 20% conversion rate, we closed this amount of customer, our goal was this revenue, but we only had that hit that revenue, with this one audit that affected closing two deals. Just reporting on a bunch of information, a bunch of numbers, a bunch of random events that happened. Just [crosstalk 00:02:12]. Yeah, go ahead.


Hiten Shah: No story.


Steli Efti: No story whatsoever.


Hiten Shah: That’s what you’re trying to get at, right? No story.


Steli Efti: Yes. You’ve instantly got it.


Hiten Shah: I was like, wait, I’ve heard this before.


Steli Efti: So you look at this and basically as an audience, as the sales team, or let’s say the company that is getting this presentation about the sales results of last month, as a team member, or as an employee of the business, I look at that slide and now I am burdened with doing all the hard work. You were just lazy. You plastered the slide with a shit ton of random numbers and information and now I have to look at it and ask myself, what does this mean? What does it all mean? What of all of this is important? Did we do a good job or not? If we learned something, what was it? What are we changing? I have to do all the interpretation. You’re giving me no story. You’ve given me 10 random facts and characters and you think I’m going to be entertained by that. Just sitting there and putting these characters and events together in some kind of a story that would entertain me as much as watching a movie. People are overwhelmed by the amount of information and they’re underwhelmed by how much of that they can, A, remember, or, B, the meaning. There’s just no context or meaning. There’s no narrative. And to me that is the worst type of internal presentation you can have. You’re basically just wasting everybody else’s time. You’re making the company worse because you’re polluting people with overwhelming them with information that’s not meaningful or actionable to them. It sounds like you’ve heard and seen this before many, many times. I’m sure we’re not the only ones. This is just a general challenge, right?


Hiten Shah: Yeah. This is a big deal. Look, people are just not used to presenting. They’re not used to creating that experience for other people where they’re motivated and they’re compelled by what they see. These internal presentations are actually not that different than you, Steli, giving a talk at a conference. They’re not. We treat them differently. We make them really dry. We don’t tell the story. But at the end of the day it’s internal marketing. That’s essentially what you’re doing. And so my way of thinking about this stuff is make sure that you’re not… I’ll give you that example. How about that? So I make these emoji decks. I actually tweeted about one the other day. I was like, the first emoji in this emoji deck that we make for our product team, and I said, we make it, but for the product team, the deck. Look, the deck has emoji. And literally it says, FYI on the first slide. I make these every week that I can. I make it myself because I just tend to know what everyone’s working on and it has FYI logo on the first slide, then every other slide is literally one headline, like latest designs, or login design, or whatever, with an emoji. And then different people on the team are talking about it. And I’m picking on them so to speak, not really picking on them, but there’s a slide or two or three for each person and there’s just an emoji. And then people are wondering what’s the emoji for? It just creates, in a way, it’s like a story. I had the duck one because we’re working on a bunch of stuff and things look really calm above the water, but underneath the water it’s like a duck. And the duck is just scrambling with their feet. That’s why I used it. So it’s like, hey, you don’t have to make it. It’s not hard. It was a couple of words at most and an emoji, and then someone talking in the meeting. And I know that’s not like a presentation with stats or anything, but hey, it’s a literal… People missed my decks when I couldn’t do them for a month or two. And so I just did, literally this week, I did one of these again after last time I did it was two months [inaudible] haven’t had the time to do it. And it’s crazy how people just like stuff like that. So it’s add some emoji. I’m not kidding. Add some emoji. It’s okay. Even if it’s corporate, just add some emoji. Make it look good. Make it look good, meaning make it a story. When there’s stats, if the stats don’t look good, then put a sad face. I’m bummed out about this stat. I’m bummed out about this metric. We went down in signups since last week. Or whatever. And it’s because of X, Y, and Z. It’s almost, in a way, when you make these presentations, you could think of it like, if I’m talking to a close friend, what are the kinds of things I’d say? Because your team is basically close. They’re close to you. No pun intended. That’s important. I feel like we are not trained on this, especially in startup land. And then the corporate side of it is very, very dry presentations most of the time. But the best ones in corporate land do have stories. And the story you’re really trying to tell is, we’ll assess status of something. What happened? What are we trying to do next? What’s the situation you’re in? Things like that. It’s not really that hard to figure this out and make it not boring. The problem is that the boring stuff is a quickest, easiest way to just get away with it. And everybody thinks this is a chore. I get excited about it and once I get excited about presenting the numbers, whatever they are. And if the numbers suck, that means you have to make some changes and improvements, so I get excited about the potential to communicate this so everyone’s aligned and then talking about what we do next and I get excited about that. And if the numbers are great, then I get excited about the fact that we’re going to keep them great and we’re going to make them even better. And so I think the word excitement comes to mind of instead of treating it like this is an update, here you go. It’s more like, let’s talk about what’s going on and let’s actually discuss it. Or let’s communicate it in a way that everybody understands. Things like that are how I think about it and what’s on my mind about it.


Steli Efti: I love that. I think there’s a couple of things that I want to add. One, I think that what people need, and what teams need is, and what they’re looking for, is meaning. When you report on anything, a project, a month, whatever it is, I don’t just want to hear necessarily a list of things, events, that happened, or numbers of stats. I want to understand what do these things need. How are we doing? What have we learned? What is happening next? And a good hack for this in reverse is to ask yourself once I’ve given this internal presentation the next day, if the partner of one of the people that was in the team meeting asked, “Hey, how did the sales month goal in February for your company?” What will be the summary this person could tell their significant other based on what I presented and shared with them? Are they going to tell them, “The conversion is 7% and we had 317 prospects, but we did…” They’re not going to do that. What they want to do is speak in plain terms. February was a good month. February was a bad month. February was a so, so month. Here’s what we wanted to do. Here’s what we really got done. He is why. And here’s what we’re doing about it. Thinking about this in a storyline, or in a narrative, there’s a hero, that’s the team. There’s a goal the hero has. There’s probably some challenges along the way and some learnings. Tell me what happened with the hero. What were the challenges? What were the accomplishments? Where are we in the story and in the narrative of things? And I had that conversation with one particular person that was honest enough to tell me, a manager, to tell me, “What I realized is that sometimes I take a look at all these numbers and I’m not sure myself, what is the meaning of this? I don’t have enough confidence in the data, or I don’t have enough data to feel like I can claim a stake and say, this is the reason why this worked or didn’t work.” And I told him, “Well, congratulations to leadership. If things were 1000% sure and crystal clear, we wouldn’t need you.” It’s your job to do your best, to take the imperfect and incomplete information you have and make a judgment call. And you have to make a decision, or call, based on all of this. It’s my understanding, or it’s my belief, this is why X happened and this is what we’re going to do to either confirm that belief or to dispel it. And if at some point it turns out that you were wrong with what you said last month, you bring that up, you share it, and you adjust. But you cannot because you’re not sure or 100% certain, you cannot relieve yourself of the responsibility of doing the job, of creating the meaning and the story around this and say since I don’t know, I’m just going to give people all the information I collected and leave them alone with figuring out what the hell all this means. I think what you said is really powerful and important. I think people need to treat internal presentations with as much, if not more, care than they would with public presentations. If you give a keynote, you wouldn’t have a slide with 300 stats on it. You would think about how to tell a story, how to say something that has narrative, that creates meaning, and that is memorable to the audience and meaningful to the audience and valuable to the audience, is another thing people don’t think about. I’m going to sit here for 30 minutes, present something in front of 40 people in my company. How are they going to benefit from this? What actionable insights will this help them generate? How is this a good use of everybody’s time? Questions that are simple, but oftentimes we miss approaching these internal presentations with this amount of a sense of responsibility and a sense of impact. We just go, wait Tuesday, I have a presentation internally. Tuesday morning I’m going to collect all the numbers, put it on a slide template, and then I’m going to just go in front of everybody and just read through all the random data points I collected on a bullet point list.


Hiten Shah: I think it’s really important to think about the audience and that’s what you’re really calling people to do. Which is obviously super important, especially in this case of when your audience is internal. These things are critical. They’re either going to motivate people, or people are going to feel demotivated, or feel nothing. That would suck. So I think thinking about your audience is really the way to get this right.


Steli Efti: There you go. All right. We want to hear from you on this. What is your company doing internally to have really killer communication, to do really killer presentations, presentations that are really useful and powerful and valuable? What are lessons learned, mistakes made? We want to hear from you. Send us an email,, Until next time, we’ll hear you very soon.


Hiten Shah: See ya.