There are many misconceptions regarding how to give a good presentation. AlexAnndra Ontra outlines three effective presentation tactics and how crucial these components are to getting your message out and compelling people to take action.

AlexAnndra is changing the way the enterprise world thinks about its most undervalued asset — the presentation. As President and co-founder of Shufflrr, AlexAnndra is blazing a trail in the new discipline of presentation management. The technology she’s created is already powering the presentation strategies of companies like Starbucks, Royal Caribbean, and NASA, helping them save millions by transforming humble PowerPoint slides into invaluable PR assets.

– AlexAnndra Ontra

Susan Sly interview with AlexAnndra Ontra

Topics covered in the interview

AlexAnndra’s first business
Pitching a concept
Lesson in resilience
Handling stress
Mistakes in presentations
Shufflrr

AlexAnndra Ontra’s Bio

AlexAnndra is changing the way the enterprise world thinks about its most undervalued asset — the presentation. As President and co-founder of Shufflrr, AlexAnndra is blazing a trail in the new discipline of presentation management. The technology she’s created is already powering the presentation strategies of companies like Starbucks, Royal Caribbean, and NASA, helping them save millions  by transforming humble PowerPoint slides into invaluable PR assets.

Follow AlexAnndra Ontra

Show Notes

Read Full Transcript

Susan Sly 00:02
Hey, what's up entrepreneurs! I hope you guys are having an amazing day. And you're excited for this episode of Raw and Real Entrepreneurship, and here's why. We're going to get raw and real, really fast. And we're going to talk about what to do, what not to do, when it comes to presenting your business. And I've already been making a new best friend before we went into recording mode and check it out. This woman is a freakin rock star. She's changing the way the enterprise world thinks about its most undervalued asset, the presentation. I can tell you, from years and years and years of presenting on stages and sales presentations, that the presentation is ultimately what does the selling for you. And we're gonna find out more. She is the president and co founder of Shufflrr. And she's blazing a trail in the new discipline of presentation management, thank the Lord, someone needs to do it. And the technology she's created is already powering the presentation strategies of companies like, check this out, Starbucks, Royal Caribbean, and friggin NASA, and helping them save millions by transforming the humble PowerPoint. So AlexAnndra Ontra, girlfriend, welcome to Raw and Real Entrepreneurship. I'm so excited to have you here.

AlexAnndra Ontra 01:14
I'm psyched to be here. Let's get to it.

Susan Sly 01:16
Let me ask you. One of the questions I love asking people, they look at entrepreneurs like yourself, you've got Starbucks and NASA as clients, and let's go back in the Time Machine just a little bit, what was your very first business?

AlexAnndra Ontra 01:31
Very first business that I that I co founded that I started was called Ontra Presentations. And it was a, it was a precursor to this. We did, we did presentation design, writing, and developed a very proprietary, high end technology that was installed on company servers. Actually these, these presentations here were from Ontra Presentations where we did soup to nuts, the whole, the whole nine yards. 10 yards, go the extra distance.

Susan Sly 02:01
Yeah, and did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

AlexAnndra Ontra 02:07
You know, no one's ever asked me that. For me, the opportunity presented itself. It was right after 911. So 20 years ago, we were working with, I was a general manager for a company called Iguana Interactive, and they did interactive presentations that at that time were installed on a, on a CD ROM, nobody has CDs anymore. And they are investors. After 911, after the market crash, the investors pulled out and I had a, I had a value added reseller's license. And my brother/partner at the time also had a, had a license to use the software. So we just started cold calling clients, our desk was a ping pong table. And we got on the phone. And we just started calling and you know, asking marketing directors of business to business sales companies, mostly media companies, because that was our sweet spot at the time. You know, if they needed help with their presentations, and that we could do it better. And we got ABC national television sales as our first client. And from there, we just kept going and kept going and kept building it.

Susan Sly 03:23
That's incredible. Because so often as entrepreneurs, when we're pitching, we're pitching a concept, as opposed to something real, right? And even with Radius, when we're first pitching, we're pitching a concept before we had developed a product. Let me ask you this, what do you say to the person who's like, Oh, I'm so nervous, Alex to go pitch a concept when I don't have a proof of concept yet, or I don't have an actual product. All I have is an idea in a napkin, or a ping pong table,

AlexAnndra Ontra 03:56
Or a ping pong table. Well, one, you have to believe that your concept is really going to help them. And from that point of view, stop thinking about your own nervousness, because we all get nervous, and think about the person that you're pitching to. What do they want? What do they need? What are their problems? Make it about them. And by doing that, one, you're thinking about and speaking about your product in a way that's going to appeal to them. Ultimately, the best way to sell is to appeal to your customer. And you're also taking the onus off yourself. The pitch is not about you. In sales, when you pitch, it's not about you. It's about your audience. It's about your customer. It's about your product. So if you focus on that, then you forget that you're nervous. You just take, take your energy off yourself and put it where it belongs. Hmm. That is-- get out of your own way.

Susan Sly 04:50
Was there anything when you're first starting the company that the potential clients told you that, surprised when kind of shifted your course off of where you thought you were going to be going?

AlexAnndra Ontra 05:03
Well, actually going back to, it was ABC national television sales. And about two years into it, they had been a very loyal client, we had great relationships with everybody. But this is, you know, the early, early 2000s, when YouTube started, and PowerPoint was getting better at animations and other things. A sales guy walks into the room, walks into a conference room, slams a CD, DVD on the, on the conference table. And it goes, my grandmother made a better presentation for our family reunion than our sales pitch. And I just, my, my heart sank, my jaw dropped. And I was like, oh, man, I'm so screwed. And at that point, we changed course. And we redesigned the product, we launched the next iteration of it under a different brand name, we called a PPT Share. It embraced PowerPoint and embraced video. It wasn't so proprietary, and it was it was a lot less expensive. So that made us, that made us course correct right then.

Susan Sly 06:14
And would you say like, you know, as women especially, we have to have a thick skin. And you know, you're in, you're in SAS, I'm in AI as a service. And I'm sure it happens to you. I might be in a boardroom, and it's mostly men. And sometimes men are going to speak to women the same way they speak to other guys, which is, you know, just like direct in your face. Don't take me personally, because I'm not taking me personally. But what would you say is one of the biggest things you've had to learn personally, as an entrepreneur, when it comes to resilience?

AlexAnndra Ontra 06:49
Ignore, be Teflon, just let stuff fall off you, because people will say stupid things, people will say obnoxious things. And they, and especially investors, they're going to challenge you, whether you're a man or a woman, they're going to shoot questions at you 1,2,3, and you better be able to answer it. And again, get out of yourself, and focus on your product, focus on your task, and do the job. If you remove yourself, or I should say if you remove your ego from the whole process, then you'll be able to you know, do what you set out to do and produce. Because at the end, everybody remember, everybody remembers the production. Everybody remembers the end point. They don't necessarily remember how it took you to get there. So always focus on that. And then eventually that will come back and say, Oh, yeah, Alex did a great job on that. Fine. Okay, sure. It's not about you. It's about what you're doing.

Susan Sly 07:51
Mm hmm. It's about what, that customer is buying a result. Right. And, and I love what you said about the ego. And Wayne Dyer was a friend of mine. And he, Wayne always used to say ego stands for edging God out. And I think as a woman in technology and a co founder and all of the things, I've definitely been humbled more times than not and had what I called WKMs, Alex, wall kicking moments. And I'm like, you know, I remember I go in and I do this pitch, right? And we're pitching for funding. And afterwards, this guy takes me aside and he's like, Susan, you have a big ego. And I often find that women founders have to overcompensate. And I was like, initially, I was like, overcompensate for what? My shoe size? Like no.

AlexAnndra Ontra 08:47
No kidding. Yeah. And that's why

Susan Sly 08:49
I call this Raw and Real Entrepreneurship, I'm just telling you. And I, you know, I sat with it, Alex that I was like, Okay, well, what is the lesson? And I love what Jay Shetty talks about everyone is our teacher. So if this person is teaching me something, it doesn't make him right. It doesn't make his approach right. But if I were to learn something from that, what would it be? And did I come off as arrogant, you know, in that, in that whole piece, right? And it's it's tough sometimes. So how do you

AlexAnndra Ontra 09:20
If you were a man, would they say you were arrogant or would they just say you were confident? Yeah, that's what I said. And I don't, I don't want to go there because

Susan Sly 09:30
that's a worm hole. We could go there. We have a lot of men who listen. You know, I've employees who listen, I told you my dad listens to every show. Hey, Dad. His name's Joe. Yeah, he's awesome. He's a retired engineer. He's cool. The, it is, and I, it is a question I ask. So let me ask you this. How do you handle stress? Because we all handle it in a unique way. And you and I were talking before the show being an entrepreneur is no joke. It is a lot of work. So how do you handle stress?

AlexAnndra Ontra 10:04
Personally, I exercise, I do ballet, which is my passion. So it, it's something that you have to use your body for, but you really need to use your mind. So when I'm in a ballet class, I have to completely focus. And I'll do spend classes in yoga. And I recently, you know, since I'm in Florida now, I took up golf. That's another sport where you're just like, totally focused on what you're doing. So I kind of like it. But I, I blow off steam, it's for me, I exercise. Some sort of exercise, some sort of passion. You have to have something else in your life besides what you do. Otherwise, that business will own you, and it will swallow you whole. So you have to have something that you're passionate about that distracts you, that you enjoy doing, and you look forward to.

Susan Sly 10:56
And something I love, I love what you said. I've been thinking about taking up golf. I think that the biggest thing is something healthy because there are a lot of us entrepreneurs, I'm sure you've been on the airplane as I have. Six in the morning, I might be flying to Silicon Valley. And there are a bunch of people drinking you know, vodka tonics at like 6am. And something like exercise, prayer, meditation. Last night I was like working, working, working, and my husband comes to the door and I'm like, babe, I just need to get on the peloton. And that was my second workout that day. But I, you know, and even after this show, I'm gonna go to yoga. Because how can you be good to anyone else if you can't be good to yourself? Exactly, exactly. So switching gears, I want to talk about business owners and presentations, because I've seen a lot of really bad presentations. So let's just pretend for a moment, we're doing a top list of the biggest mistakes people make. What are some of the biggest mistakes people make with presentations?

AlexAnndra Ontra 12:01
Too much, too much, too much crap on the slide. They just put everything and the kitchen sink on the slide. Less is more. Limit, if it's a tech slide limit it to three bullets, tops. If you can even make it one, one big statement, do that. The other thing is people use PowerPoint and they use their presentations as a crutch. So they end up reading the slides. They follow the slides, they live by the slides. And then their slides have all this information on it. So the presentation is just like, oh my god, you're in the, you're in the audience, you just want to poke your eye out with a pencil. So you got to remember again, get out of yourself, and focus on your products, and simplify your slides. I'm rambling can we cut? No, I fanboy.

Susan Sly 13:00
So true. Yeah. Like, don't have 55 slides. Don't use a 6.5. Like, no, like, Oh my gosh.

AlexAnndra Ontra 13:09
Um, the other thing is, when you're, when you're putting your slides together, keep it simple, but again, remember your audience. So like, for example, I work for a technology company, I do software and you do AI, so the products that you're selling are very technical. And they're very complicated. And it's really easy to get into those details. You know, we have, we have this, you know, this is encrypted. And, and we do this like, for example, Shufflrr has visual elastic search, which will index all of your files so that your search terms are keywords had highlighted in the results, therefore you can see them, what the hell does that mean? The end of the day, it's, it's you, you look at your slides, look at your presentation, and then ask yourself, so what? Like, why is this important to your audience, to your customer? Why? So it's not that we have elastic search with visual hit highlights, it's, you can see the words on your slides, and you get to see all your slides at once. So if you have 1000 slides in your library, you can zoom in and find that one you're looking for. We've just made your life easier. That matters. So when you're doing your presentation, always think about your audience, simplify the information on the slide, less is more. And finally, and above all, make sure you tell a story. PowerPoint is very linear. And it's also in a, in an outline format. So we've forgotten, so we just put notes on them, and all it is is notes on a page, and we forgotten how to, how to do transitions. And how to, how to write a story which we used to do. I mean, back when you and I were in school, we wrote essays. Nobody writes essays anymore. We do 140 characters on Twitter. But those transitions make it a story, and the story that answer so what, is what's going to sell your product. That's where you're going to grab your, your client, your customer. Those are good. So I can summarize it, tell a story, keep your slides simple. And ask yourself over and over again, as you review your presentation, So what? Why is this important to my customer? Those are the three things that you can do.

Susan Sly 15:41
Girl, that's good, because it sounds like common sense. But believe me, I think I've been almost PowerPointed to death on so many ocassions. And, and even from pitches, right? In the startup world, I consult a lot of startups, and they don't have a clue how to make a pitch deck. And you know, as you said, like don't put 50 bullet points on a slide. That's ridiculous. So tell everyone about Shufflrr, like, what is the service you offer? I know your website is sick. I love it. I already told Alex, I'm like, we're doing this with Radius as soon as we're done this interview, but tell us about it.

AlexAnndra Ontra 16:19
Well, Shufflrr makes presentations easier and better for everybody in the company. So if you're the marketing director, or if you're in the corporate headquarters, you can ensure that everybody is presenting branded, compliant, accurate, up to date slides. If you are out in the field, you can easily customize a presentation that is branded and compliant and accurate for your customer. So it's a win win for both sides.

Susan Sly 16:44
That's awesome. And what about someone who doesn't have a clue about design? Or where they should start? Or, you know, what about that person is like, I know I need to present but I don't know where to begin?

AlexAnndra Ontra 16:56
Well, there's two ways to go about it with Shufflr. We encourage our clients to build their corporate story. And part of their corporate story is that all these slides are already branded. So if you're, if you're a salesperson out in the field, you don't have to be a designer, that's done for you, which ultimately is in the benefit of the company, because everybody's using branded, good looking content. And it also makes their life easier. If you are just out on your own, like oh, no, I got to do this presentation. PowerPoint now actually gives suggestions to make your slide prettier. And, and we also I mean, we have a lot of consultants and presentation designers, there's so much help to make beautiful presentations, if you don't want to do it yourself. There's a whole economy out there. A whole environment of designers who just focus on presentations.

Susan Sly 17:52
And believe me as an entrepreneur, we all know especially when you're getting started, you are the marketing directo, you're the CFO. And the graphic designer. Yeah, you're there, you're at, you're the salesperson, you HR like-- And

AlexAnndra Ontra 18:06
you're the janitor, don't forget, you're also the janitor. How can you, how can you tell who the owner of the company is?

Susan Sly 18:12
They're throwing out the garbage. We did a show, I got a whole bunch of different friends who are CEOs and talk about being emotional janitors. I'm gonna write that down. That could be my, I didn't like, what's my eighth book title? I'm not your emotional janitor. Right? Yeah, that's funny. So final question for you. You know, one of the, one of the big questions that when someone's starting a business, and recently we did an extensive poll of our audience, and they're in 125 countries, I don't know, the team tells me where everyone is. But 50% of the people are thinking of starting a business. And one of the things I always say Alex is if you know, you're thinking about starting a business, you've got to get that foundation down right. And that foundation actually starts with you. So walk everyone through your day, right? You're running this company, you have employees, you're you know, like one of those rare women heading a SAS company, what does your day look like?

AlexAnndra Ontra 19:17
Well, I'm gonna go from the first 10 years to the last 10 years. And when I first started, I won't say 20 years ago, but yeah, was that many years ago. I felt like every day was a blank slate. And I just felt like because like you said, You know, I was the marketing director. I was the salesperson, I was the janitor. I was the accountant. And because we were selling services, it was more consulting. Every, once you finished a project, you have to get a new project. So every day for like 10 years, it felt like a blank string, a blank slate, and I was starting over. Now that we have a SAS with recurring revenue, I and we, you know, we have a, we have, we have set clients, we've gotten bigger, we have a tech team, I have a sales team, I have a marketing person, I feel like well, I got a real company here. This is great. And, and now I actually love getting out. Because I was like, Oh, I'm just gonna pick up and continue what I did yesterday and just keep moving forward. I don't have that, Ah, what am I gonna do today? But for anybody who's starting, I would say it's a lot harder than it looks. You will not have cash in your pocket for a very long time. So get used to that. And just keep going. If you really want it and this is just, keep going. A lot of people are gonna say don't do it, it's too hard. They'll tell you to quit. You know, just keep at it. Just keep, you are, you are pushing a snowball up a hill. So every step you take, you make progress. But that ball is getting bigger, and it's getting heavier. And eventually, you will get to the peak. I love-- there's great view from the top.

Susan Sly 21:11
It is, Yeah. Right? What's it you did Alex, the comparison, no on,e in the hundreds of interviews I've done, no one's actually done that. And it's so relevant to people because they look at the end, you know, like, Oh, you know, to the point like, oh, there's the entrepreneur, and she's driving the Lamborghini. And she's like, no, because we had no money. We're like, you know, walking around doing all of these different jobs. And I was telling Alex just before we got on the show, so we're in the process of hiring 60 people. And I didn't tell you this story. So we, one of the people we hired, she came to us from a massive, massive, like not even multi billion, multi billion is what they do, like, weekly company to come work in a startup. And today was her first day. Alex, thanks so much for being here. It was a pleasure.

Susan Sly 23:26
Stay the course, go rock your day. And if this has been a great episode, you better give us a five star review. We're ladies who ask for what we want. And with that, I will see you in a future episode of Raw and Real Entrepreneurship.

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