Mr. Prezident’s Nicholas van der Kwast on Helping Businesses Achieve More With Presentations

A great presentation can help you create a positive impression about your products and services. But, it doesn’t stop at what other people think of you. You can actually build self-confidence with it. If you’re ...

Read moreMr. Prezident’s Nicholas van der Kwast on Helping Businesses Achieve More With Presentations

A great presentation can help you create a positive impression about your products and services. But, it doesn’t stop at what other people think of you. You can actually build self-confidence with it.

If you’re part of the 91% of presenters who feel more confident with a well-designed slide deck, Mr. Prezident can take care of that. Plus you’ll feel so prepared that your pre-presentation anxiety will go down by 90%.

about 79% of people agree that most presentations are boring. So, you want to bring “making a good first impression” to the forefront. Try to leave an impact that they’ll remember long after the presentation has ended.

In this interview, Nicholas Van Der Kwast tells us how businesses can attract and engage their audience through presentations.

Read on to discover how.

Key Takeaway From The Interview

This interview shares insights on how businesses can leverage their presentations to boost their growth and awareness.

Here are some key points to note:

  • Creating that impression on people is everything. But, it’s often forgotten and put on the back burner. 
  • Invest in creating things that are important, engaging and make a difference within your organization.
  • Some assets that businesses don’t think about are often the ones with the biggest impact on their growth
  • Improving your storyline, designs and public speaking skills can help you present better.
  • People often underestimate what a presentation means, so they don’t set a budget for it.
  • Focusing on a niche reduces your competition because there are fewer people within a niche than the whole industry.

My Conversation With Nicholas van der Kwast

Nicholas van der Kwast, Mr Prezident.

1. Introduce yourself and tell us about Mr. Prezident.

Well! My name is Nicholas Van Der Kwest. I work for a company called Mr. Prezident, which is a presentation agency. 

Mr. Prezident focuses on helping our companies and clients achieve more through presentations. And what we really mean by that is to achieve more impact, create more awareness, and get better results. 

It’s a litany of things that people are trying to achieve with their presentation. So, our objective is to make sure that they’re achieving their objectives, and more, through their presentation.

2. So, can you tell us the story behind the name, Mr. Prezident?

Yeah, of course.

Mr. Prezident originally started as a Prezi agency. If you’ve heard of the presentation software tool called Prezi, it’s an open canvas software that you can design presentations with. It allows a lot of flexibility in terms of moving in and out without having that slide-to-slide transition. 

So, two founders, based in Amsterdam, started Mr. Prezident. One of them was working at another big agency called Ogilvy and they were just creating presentations for them all the time. 

Prezi was the new presentation software on the market and it was hot. And one of the founders really got into it and started understanding everything you could and couldn’t do with it. And then he started doing all the presentations for Ogilvy in this tool.

Eventually, it became such a high-demand tool that he thought he could start an entire agency around this software. Ogilvy permitted him to start his new agency within the Ogilvy structure and right away he was making use of Ogilvy’s facilities and know-how. Because he was the first agency to focus on this, companies started coming to us directly. 

So, we had a lot of inbound success while working with this tool. So the tool lent itself to the name. So Prezi then became Prezident, since then we have expanded to a full-service agency.

So, almost five years ago, we decided that Prezi is still very interesting, but we want to do much more for our clients than just work within one software. We want to find the software that best matches the client’s needs.

So it’s not just about the medium, it’s about the message. The message should determine the medium, the type of tool, and the technology you’re using to present especially nowadays. 

So it used to be like, people either presented online or more often in person. But now technology has become such an important factor in presentations because you’re presenting online in front of thousands of people. 

So:

  • What technology are you using to present
  • What sort of conferencing tool are you using
  • How does that align with the presentation tool?
  • Does that sync up to what you’re trying to achieve with the presentation? 

Sorry! (laughs). That’s a lot of information.

3. Yeah! I like the depth and how these all came together. So, what’s it been like so far since the company started? Especially when you transitioned from Prezi to Mr. Prezident. What’s been your experience so far? What did you learn from that transition?

Yeah, I’ve learned a ton. 

As I said, I stepped into Mr. President right when this transition started. So it was kind of a startup agency, right? 

So they were just focused on creating Prezi all the time. Once in a while, they were doing other small offshoots if it was a specific request from a client. 

We also started another agency called fresco.com because of a lot of the stuff we were creating in our presentations. 

We wanted to keep Mr. Prezident’s as a niche agency, but clients were asking us for the design that we applied to their presentations if we could apply that to their websites or to animations and stuff like that.

So to ensure that Mr. Prezident stayed as sort of this niche funnel for us. We started a new entity that we wouldn’t have to turn clients away. But that we could apply the branding and design that we do in their presentations, to additional collateral for conferences and stuff like that.

So in that time, we’ve experienced a great deal of growth. We’ve always had major clients from the offset. Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and HBO have all been clients from the start of the business. 

But since then we’ve expanded our business throughout the world. We have clients all around the world, creating presentations with us all the time, in all sorts of formats. 

And I go back to what I said earlier. It’s not so much about just the medium or the message, it’s very much syncing up. 

  • How are we telling those stories?
  • How are we crafting those stories?
  • What does that look like in design, and 
  • What tools are we using? 

So we look at it from a holistic perspective, ensuring that presentations aren’t just your run-of-the-mill PowerPoints or anything like that. Because people often underestimate what a presentation means. 

There’s often no budget set aside to create presentations within companies. Yet when you’re presenting this information in your investor meetings or your board meetings, or you’re trying to tell your company’s story or sell a product, these often created assets that aren’t thought about too often have the biggest impact on the company. 

So that’s a big learning for companies and it’s a learning educational process for our clients too. They learn how important these presentations are, and how they should invest time and money into them?

4. Okay. So I’m curious, you said something now. You decided to stay a niche, instead of expanding and adding other features. So what was the thought? Why did you choose to create a separate entity for all these other requests from your clients?

Yeah, so, as I said, we were very fortunate and we still are because there are thousands of design agencies in the world. 

There are very few agencies that so specifically focus on presentation design. And because we are so highly focused on presentation design, we’re very blessed and fortunate. 

But I also think obviously through the merit of our work, that a lot of clients come to us and search for us. 

Whereas if you’re searching for a design agency and you type in “design agency” in Google, you’ll get a thousand options that just pop up. Whereas if you search for “presentation agency”, if you’re looking for our presentation expert, you’ll maybe get a dozen that hit that filter through.

And then obviously our list of clientele and our work hopefully speaks for themselves. But that really helps in terms of just getting through the noise of competition out there. 

But, we’re also able to expand our business as well which makes clients see our work and work with us.  

We can then transition to our other agency, which is Fres-co, where we can create all these assets for you and your presentation. But if you want to build on our partnership, we have other agencies that can address those needs as well.

5. Okay. Now, you’ve talked of working with really large companies. But do you build services and products that fit small businesses? And how can small businesses leverage this?

Yes! So there are several ways we work with smaller businesses as well. 

Our ambition is to become a presentation partner for your organization. So that can, in full transparency, sometimes be a hurdle in building these smaller business partnerships.

They don’t set aside the budgets to create presentations in an ongoing fashion throughout the year. That’s why larger enterprise companies are a better fit typically. But we work with smaller companies on their investor decks or one-time general company sales presentations. 

We also build templates for smaller businesses. So, we can build a presentation template design that’s fully customized to their company. 

We have different product offerings where they can select different template packages. The number of slides, they need and how customized it is for them. 

But we also do presentation training. And I think you saw that on our website.

So, we can help smaller businesses take on their presentation design themselves and empower them just as a company to become better presentation designers. But also better presenters and storytellers. 

And while that’s a less cost-prohibitive way of working with us, it empowers them to take on a lot of this work themselves. 

It may not be the same design level in the end, but they’ll at least be aware of the design principles that are required in designing. And creating a story that is going to definitely take what they know to the next level and their general presentation game to the next level.

6. Mr. Prezident promises to make clients “presentation Masters” in just three sessions. And I’ve seen the quality of your presentations. What are these sessions like? And what makes you feel confident that you can do that with just about anyone?

So again, you don’t have to become a professional designer, right? 

But you can learn the design principles, storytelling principles, and some other principles with regards to public speaking. Learn presenting in different formats, whether it be on stage or on camera. There are so many things that you can learn in a short amount of time that will really enhance your general presentation skills. 

We focus on these three different segments.

The first is the storyline rather than focusing on putting some slides together. I think it’s really important that when we create these training sessions, understanding:

  • What the story is
  • What the product is, and what you’re trying to achieve 
  • What impact you’re going to go for, and
  • If the story you’re putting together would get you that end result

Are we crafting this story to make sure that your audience is walking away with the impact you’re looking for? So that’s the first session that really focuses on the story and these sessions are all very workshopped. 

So while we give you these principles, we’re putting them into practice right away, right? So we try to work on live scenarios to give you that experience.

The next would be a design.

Once we’ve crafted that story, the next master session would be on focusing on the design. 

So now that we’ve crafted the story, 

  • How does that fit into actually building the presentation? 
  • What does the structure of the presentation look like? 
  • How do we go through that presentation? 
  • What did the slides look like? 
  • How does that fit with your branding? 
  • How does that messaging look on the slide? 

As for the number of words on a slide, we definitely believe less is more when it comes to presenting visuals, presenting the super important.

We’re a presentation agency but we really believe that the presentation should come second to your story. And the way the presenter speaks, everything that’s behind you on a slide or next to you on content doesn’t matter, it needs to only empower and further enhance the message of the presenter. That’s more important.

 And then the next session is about actually presenting, right? 

So what are the strengths that come across when you’re doing public speaking? It’s really important nowadays that we learn how to adapt those public speaking skills and engagement skills, for an online situation with COVID and people working from home. 

How do we make sure that you’re able to transition those skills that maybe you have on stage or don’t yet to an on-camera situation? There are different tricks to do that as well. 

  • Taking a step back
  • Knowing when to engage with your audience
  • Integrating live polls
  • Incorporating moments of humor in your presentation

All sorts of different tips and tricks that we can do through a public speaking aspect of presenting.

7. Now, you design presentations for people and you train people to do that for themselves as well. Since 66% of people want to design their presentations themselves, based on statistics. What’s it been like when people design versus when you design? Have you measured what’s really happening in there?

Just in full transparency, I don’t have a lot of data on the effect of people designing their own presentations themselves versus working with a professional agency. 

But I can tell you that, in our experience, people come to us because they don’t want to design their own presentations. They’re in search of professional support. And when we have been involved, we’ve achieved great things with our partner clients, be it raising an X amount of money or blowing away an audience during the Ted talk. 

These are the things that people want to achieve with their presentations. And that’s what we strive to do. 

Sometimes, clients come to us and they’ve already created their presentation. And I can tell you, without wanting to speak down to anybody, it’s often not up to standard. 

They might think, “I’ve done an okay job here, but I can really take this to another level.” Even then there’s so much more that people can achieve. 

They’re not taking into consideration the design principles. They’re not taking into consideration the structure of their story and building in those moments of impact in their presentation. 

There’s a lot of things missing in a standard presentation that people are creating on their own. Not that people are forgetting, but they might just not be aware of what’s all possible.

8. Okay. Now, even if I know these design principles and understand how to design a really awesome presentation, does it make sense to still consult with you and just be double sure. More like, having an expert look at what I’ve done?

Yeah! We’re happy to always jump on a call and have an initial look and share our two cents. Obviously, during this call, we can present some initial ideas and points of feedback. 

Then it’s either up to them to implement them on their own or work with us, where we can further explore opportunities to enhance the presentation. And also, contribute to the overall design. 

But if they have the capabilities and the means to do it in-house on their own, by all means, I would suggest they do it. But it doesn’t hurt to consult presentation experts. 

We work on thousands of presentations throughout the year. So we have quite some expertise on what works and what doesn’t work.

9. Are you seeing any competition in this space or do you think you’re not pressured at all?

Oh, there’s definitely competition. There are other great, very good, talented, presentation experts out there. 

There are some agencies that focus just on the design aspect or some agencies that focus more on the technology aspect. We partner with a lot of event agencies, for example, they do all the logistics around the event. But we’re actually the presentation agency that gets brought in to actually create the content that goes on the screens for those keynote speakers and more.

There’s competition! There’s definitely competition! 

There’s competition regionally, we’re based primarily in our offices, in Amsterdam and the Netherlands and in New York. 

But there’s also competition all around the world. There are presentation agencies in Brazil and Australia and Japan, and they all have their skillsets.

At Mr. Prezident, we’re really focused on innovative technologies to present. So what are the best tools to present your message? And we focus on the story and crafting that in line with the design. But there’s also freelance competition. 

There are freelance presentation designers. What we find there, though, is obviously they can typically work better with smaller budgets. Or you’re usually getting one side of the coin instead of the full approach.

When we create and work on projects, we’re typically working on any given presentation with three to four people on each presentation. From technology consultants to presentation strategists, to designers, to a dedicated project manager.

But when you’re working with a freelancer, it’s just one person you typically send your slides to. “Hey, this is what I want to do.” And they create and design within their skillset.

And that could be great for what you’re looking for and for your budget. So there’s no slide on them. It’s just about matching the customer up with the right, right. The type of service that they’re looking for.

10. Are there aspects of what you do that you think people are not probably taking advantage of enough?

Yeah. I’m sure there are. I see tons of presentations, as I mentioned earlier, that are so subpar.

We work with huge corporations and clients sometimes from around the world that still send us presentations and slides that look like they’re from the 90s. 

The aspect ratios and so many other things are aspects that they don’t consider and it’s so important. 

Presentation is everything, right? Creating that impression on people is everything. But, it’s often forgotten and put on the back burner. 

And what we like to do is bring the importance of that to the forefront and try to remind people of the impact that your presentations can have. Especially nowadays that we’re all in these monotonous online daily calls. 

If you can create something that’s of importance and keep people engaged and really make difference within your organization, I think it’s important to invest in that. 

So yeah, there are definitely aspects of our services, I would hope to say all of our services that can be utilized by the most company.

11. Are you paying any attention to these other spinoffs that some of your clients are beginning to request? These designs they want you to incorporate into their website and all these other external things? Are you trying to grow that in any way?

Yeah, we have several clients that we have dedicated partnerships with outside of presentation design. We do a lot of work for them. 

We do a lot of animation work through our other agency, fresco, but if it’s somewhat presentation-related, we keep it under the Mr. Prezident brand. We have partners that do backend development. 

So if there are companies and partners we’ve started working with on their presentations, they might want to move some of that presentation content to other formats. It might be into e-learning formats and develop special online applications for their presentations. Or to do their onboarding process and things like that. 

We work with development agencies. We have partners in that segment as well to co-create. So we create the presentation materials with the backend stuff as well. 

So yeah, there are all sorts of offshoots that we’re working on all the time.

10. What’s the best thing anyone ever told you about Mr. Prezident?

Presentation

The best thing anybody’s ever said to me about Mr. Prezident? (Laughs)

I haven’t been given permission to reference the client, at least not off the top of my head. But one of my clients has told me that our presentation is worth a billion dollars. 

So, he’d made a billion dollars.

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Nicholas Godwin

Nicholas Godwin is a technology researcher who tells profitable brand stories that tech buyers and businesses love. He covers technology topics on his website TechWriteResearcher.com, and has worked on projects for Fortune 500 companies, global tech corporations and top consulting firms, from Bloomberg Beta, Accenture, PwC, and Deloitte to HP, Shell, and AT&T.

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