Cisco India Blog

How to Captivate Your Audience: Conversation with Nathan Gold, Demo Coach

December 11, 2017

At Cisco, we believe that a compelling business story can get you your audience’s undivided attention. Storytelling can help us articulate who we are as individuals and as a company. Hence, one of the major focus of the Cisco LaunchPad program is to coach startups on how to deliver compelling pitches and demos. That’s where Nathan Gold Cisco LaunchPad demo coach comes in. Nathan has tremendously helped all 24 Cisco LaunchPad startups to capture the attention of VCs and other influential stakeholders using his unique approach to coaching. Nathan has coached the Top 5 Finalists in the Startup of the Year award, in the actual WSJ elevators in NYC. A guest lecturer at Wharton Entrepreneurship and coach for TED and TEDx presenter, Nathan’s contribution in coaching Cisco LaunchPad startups has been remarkable.

In my conversation with Nathan, I asked him some very important questions on how to create lasting impact with a presentation.

Q. What are the essentials of a killer pitch/presentation in your opinion?

Nathan: In order to win the hearts and minds of an audience, you must connect with them on an emotional level. If not, you run the risk of ending up having your message get lost in the “noise”. If you want an easy way to connect to your audience on an emotional level, try starting with why. Start by watching Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action and you will see why starting with ‘why’ is a very simple way to get your audience emotionally involved in your talk. Of course, using your personal story or relating the personal story of someone else is generally a sure way to get emotionally connected to your audience, especially stories that they can immediately relate too. Just don’t waste time with the obvious. Get to the point quickly. People do not have time for long drawn out stories, especially when they are seeing and hearing you for the first time.

In addition, here are more essentials (IMHO) to a killer presentation. Keep in mind that the use of the following information always depends on the audience and situation:

  • Have a killer opening because most presentations don’t. Our names and titles are not usually a killer opening. If all people did was spend more time on captivating their audiences in the first few seconds or minutes of their presentation, there is a much better chance the audience will actually pay closer attention. Do something different or unusual to get the attention of your audience. Perhaps even use technology and invite your audience to participate in a live Q&A, but gamified such as with Kahoot. Or, take a live poll of the audience using their smartphones or tablets using a product like
  • When the presenter transfers their enthusiasm for what they are doing to the audience. Everyone in the audience can feel this when it happens. There is no question about it. You just feel it.
  • Being HARD – Honest, Authentic, Real, and Direct – with your audiences will usually win their appreciation, interest, and curiosity. It makes it easier for the presenter to sleep better at night and feel more confident in what they are saying when presenting. Even being a little vulnerable at times is part of being HARD.
  • Having an easy to follow framework for your audience. There is no one magic framework that works for all situations. However, keeping your presentation simple, clear, actionable, and memorable will always make it easier for your audience.
  • Using the right slide design. This means most people will require two decks. One of them is the “detail” deck or the one most people use when presenting. However, the detail deck is the one you send as an email attachment or a leave behind where people DO NOT need you there to know what the deck is covering. The other deck is a stripped down version of the detail deck, which some people call the “performance” deck. Think Steve Jobs for a moment. Did he EVER show any slides where there were more than 3 words? The point is, if the audience can read (and they will read) your slides, why are you standing there presenting?
  • Concluding with purpose. Many people will click to their last slide and either summarize or just say something like, “Oh, that’s it. Are there any questions.” This is not closing with a purpose. If you are presenting for 5-10 minutes, there is no need for a summary. Click to your last slide and finish with your call-to-action, or your ask, or perhaps one more anecdote or story to illustrate the reason you are presenting, or circle back to your Opening and finish it out with one more piece of information the audience did not have yet.

I could go on and on about this. Let’s leave it at this for now.

Q. What are some of the most common mistakes people make while presenting?  

Nathan: Weak opening, poor slide design, wasting time on the obvious, not transferring their enthusiasm to the audience, and a weak closing.

Q. Tell us about the things people should keep in mind with regards to their presence and Body Language while presenting?

Nathan: It all depends on the situation and size of the audience. If you are in a room with one person, it would be quite strange to be up in front using massive arm gestures and projecting your voice to the back of the room. However, if you are on a big stage with hundreds or thousands of people in the room, your arm gestures along with facial expressions become key to connecting with the audience. The larger the room and audience, the larger the gestures need to be. I am also a big fan of using the open palm instead of pointing at someone in the audience. With Body Language, I include the voice. The voice is the secret weapon of each of us, but we don’t realize this. In most cases, people need to find their presentation voice, especially when their normal tone of voice is not conveying enough enthusiasm to the audience. It is a bit of acting. The voice I typically use when presenting is definitely not the voice I use when talking to my wife. I would be living in a tent in the backyard if I tried that.

Q. How was the experience coaching Cisco Launchpad’s 24 startups? 

Nathan: It has been super fantastic for many reasons. After three cohorts, I will confirm that my first and foremost positive experience has been with all of the people involved not only from the startups themselves, but all of the dedication of the Cisco LaunchPad team members that make the Launchpad possible. Each of the startups has their own personality and I love getting to know each of them beginning with the Bootcamp and then again at the tail end of the program when I have the honor of preparing them for their Demo Day pitch in person here in Bengaluru. This is my 5th time to the city and I always meet super great people with super cool products and services that are really not much different than any other place on earth, including Silicon Valley. In all, after almost 10 years full time coaching, my experience with the Cisco Launchpad and the 24 startups rates among the top 3 in my business.

Thank you Nathan, for some really great insights. 

For more insights, Watch Cisco LaunchPad Facebook Live with Nathan Gold.


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  1. Thank you for posting this. I appreciate that every coach has their own opinions and I hope the readers find this helpful and worth considering. If there are any questions or comments you want me to address, please leave them here. I will be here in Bangalore until Friday, December 15 late evening. Thank you to the people at the Cisco Launchpad for including me in their journey. I hope to be back again next year and beyond.