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What You Need to Learn From Lion Tamers

Any lion tamer will have three tools to control their majestic beast: a whip, a stool, and a fistful of enticing snacks. Which of these tools is most useful?

Most would say it’s the whip, but they would be wrong. It’s the stool. When the lion tamer raises the stool to face his roaring counterpart, the lion sees all four stool legs and doesn’t know which one to focus on. Consequently, they stand frozen, enabling the tamer to keep them under control.

As interesting as this may be, we as humans are not impervious to this same manipulation. When you try focus on too many things in your work, you become incapable of taking effective action on any of them. Lack of focus significantly impairs your ability to lead and stick to your plan, especially when giving a presentation.

In order to prevent what I like to call the very appropriately named “tamed-lion syndrome” you should follow these rules:

Set goals.

Know what you do, how you do it, why you do it, and where you want to take it. Know all of that, and the goal-making process will be a piece of cake. Go to the first day of class and what does the professor do? He goes over the syllabus and talks about his goals for you as his student. Join a gym your instructor will immediately talk about your goals and what exactly you hope to achieve with your body. Both the college professor and the gym instructor are following the same trend, they’re highlighting end results. They’re trying to lure you in by showing you the potential the service can offer you.

 It is useful to set goals at all levels, daily, weekly, monthly, annual, and long term. Expressing your short and long term goals in your presentation are great for transparency for your audience. Giving a clear message and ultimate goal to your audience will allow them to empathize with you and genuinely understand your passion. It’s a universal fact that empathy, or really just emotion, is the single most powerful tool for selling. All in all, it’s pretty simple; set goals, explain them, and sell more.

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

-Steve Jobs

Get your priorities straight.

This is arguably the most important and useful factor when it comes to focusing. Knowing your long term goal is the best way to start. That in itself takes a while to figure out. But once you take that step, highlight, circle, star, check, enumerate, or do whatever it is you have to do to prioritize your tasks to get you to your goal. The more detailed, the more effective it’ll be. Priorities should be outlined along with your goals in your presentation. This comes back to transparency; the more your audience can understand you and your company, the more comfortable they will feel with you.



Colan, Lee.What Lion Tamers Know About Focus. July 19, 2013. 
Jarrett, Christian. “How Goals and Good Intentions Can Hold Us Back.99u. July 10, 2012.

How to Think Like $5.99 and Not Like $6.00

Imagine you own a clothing store. Now you decide to begin a sale for that store. Let’s say a particular type of shorts usually costs $20 per short, but for the purposes of the sale you’re going to mark them down to $15 a piece.

There are two ways you could present that discount. The first would be as a percentage. Going from $20 to $15 would be 25% off. The second would be as an absolute number with $5 off. Which way is better?

Both discounts amount to the same final price. 25% off $20 and $5 off $20 both result in the customer paying $15 for the shorts. So both representations of the discount should have the same effect, right?

Wrong. Jonah Berger, author of Contagion, explains to us that the consumers find the 25% discount more attractive than the 5$ off. While the two discounts are the same economically, they don’t trigger the same psychological effect. One feels like a larger discount than the other.

Accordingly, the next time you’re reporting numerical information, pay attention to how you are presenting it. The way changes are represented can have a big impact on how they’re perceived.

Focus on the final number.

Like the story above, most people seemed to be more enticed by the offer when the discount number was larger. Rule of thumb would be whenever you are offering a discount under $100 display it as a percentage, and when the offer is greater than $100 display it as an absolute number. This will make sure you are always maximizing your psychological impact. Simpler is better. No one cares about a page of numbers and figures that look like the green screen display from the matrix. You need to simplify your results, and then simplify them again. Think of your raw data as a pile of freshly picked vegetables. People don’t want to eat them when they still have dirt and leave stems on them. People want a quick and painless way to stay healthy, so what do you do? You take those vegetables, clean them, cut them, put them in a blender and make a smoothie. Then you take that smoothie and turn it into a wheatgrass shot. Quick and to the point. So yes, your data should be reduced to the size of a wheatgrass shot! After all, the simpler your can represent your findings, the easier it will be for your audience to understand you, which will in turn make your call-to-action more successful.

Tell a story.

Everyone knows the best stories are the ones told with pictures, so use them. Portraying data graphically reveals patterns in the data that are hard to notice otherwise Visual depictions of data are almost universally understood without requiring knowledge of a language. It is also useful to alter your tone and speed as you approach the finding of any given graph. Much like when telling a story, the storyteller tends to get really excited toward the climax or “best part” of the story; it is not only useful but critical to draw attention to the most important features of the data.

I’ll leave you with Hans Rosling’s fascinating TED talk revolved around displaying data effectively, which you can watch here



Berger, Jonah. “Fuzzy Math: What Makes Something Seem Like A Good Deal?linkedin. August 28, 2013.

Kakutani, Michiko. “Mapping Out the Path to Viral Fame.The New York Times. February 25, 2013.

Rosling, Hans. “The Best Stats You’ve Ever February 2006.

How to Survive Through Shark Tank

My name is Joe Shmo and I would like $100,000 for a 10% stake in my company.

Every Friday night, about 7 million Americans seem to hear that phrase, or some almost-identical derivative of it, in the prime-time feeding frenzy, Shark Tank.

Rolling into its fifth season, the eminent television series attracts promising startups to pitch their business venture to a 5-person panel of highly successful entrepreneurs (potential investors) to be ruthlessly chewed up by the panelists’ multitude of interrogative questions.

As of December of last year, at the closing of its latest season, the show’s panel members had invested “$12.4 million in the business opportunities.” During that same 2012 season, more than 36,000 people applied to become contestants on the show.

The 5th season’s panel will include highly successful venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary, billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, co-founder of the Paul Mitchell and The Patron Spirits Company John Paul Dejoria, and other business magnates sitting in as the Sharks. You never know whether the pitch will go totally right or deliciously wrong. After four drama-filled seasons, we have gathered two unique and effective rules to present by when it comes to surviving the Shark Tank.

Focus on the facts and figures

This is the single most important rule to follow when pitching your professional PowerPoint presentation. Your investor will primarily focus on what costs and sales you had, have, and think you’ll have– which mean you should too. Whether you’re pitching to investors or presenting to grow your business, it’s vital that you understand your business’s cash flow. Passion and motivation are great for business, but they only get you so far, as we’ve learned from many of the Sharks; numbers tell the real story.

What’s your story?

This is the essential question you need to have answered before beginning your presentation. Aside from the numbers, the one thing sharks focus on most is you and what better ways to show who you are than through your story.  Your story is basically the long, twisted, and rocky road you took to get to where you are now. Speaking frankly, people eat these emotional stories up. What human can’t relate to hardship? We are all programmed to empathize to emotions, both good and bad ones. As long as you don’t overdo it, you can utilize the story to reel your sharks in.

Along with your story comes the “sub-rule” to be personable. While all of the above will get you closer to your dream of running a successful business, it also helps to have a winning personality. No one wants to do business with someone who is unlikable, except maybe Mr. Wonderful. As Shark Barbara Corcoran said in a recent tweet, “All the entrepreneurs I’ve invested in have amazing personalities—no regrets.”

Be clear, precise, and confident

This is the last rule we have to share. Much like your sharks will focus on numbers and personality, effective communication is the third and last key component to survival. You need to speak simply, and confidently. This will show your sharks you mean business and that you understand your business.  Don’t come across cocky. Once you rub the sharks the wrong way, tension will take over, which would screw up any prospect of dealing with one another. Think before you speak, and don’t act impetuously. Once your shark comments and asks a question, take a breath, and then respond. Acting out too quickly may draw blood. This is true for any investor presentation or professional PowerPoint.

If you’re going to swim with the sharks be prepared. Use these rules for your next professional PowerPoint design!

READ MORE: 7 Entrepreneurial Lessons from “Shark Tank” – Fast Company