Episode #011 - Where we learn from Soufyan Hamid - FP&A Freelancer and the Finance Presentation Skills master – Choosing what to contact to communicate and how, how you can present like Netflix, how to use teaser & cliffhangers, how to use the PowerPoint rehearsal tool, why doing things manually might help your creativity, the cool apps Souf uses in his day to day, and much much more.
'Souf' started his career at PwC, spent almost 5 years as a manager at Deloitte and 7 years at Proximus as a Finance Business Partner and manager of Strategic projects. Souf is now an FP&A freelancer, but also trains finance teams on how to improve their presentation skills. When he's not doing that, he's spending time with his daughter of 8 and son of 5, attending concerts and playing football (in his words badly), and he also likes cooking and drawing DragonBall Z characters!
Audio Podcast Links
Where to find Souf:
Some Examples of Souf’s Posts
Building Blocks of a Great Presentation
1. Building Block 1 – Analysis – Focusing on what’s important and actionable
2. Building Block 2 – Big Message – What do you want people to remember?
3. Building Block 3 – Teasers – Keep people wanting more throughout.
4. Building Block 4 – Rehearse – For important meetings, make sure you practise!
5. Building Block 5 – Deliver – Think about how to look, engage and pace yourself.
[00:04:20] Why Presentation Skills?
[00:11:05] What Content Requires What Communication?
[00:12:29] Use Cases for Excel vs PowerBI
[00:20:57] Using Teasers & Cliffhangers
[00:27:35] How to use the PowerPoint Rehearsal Tool
[00:32:56] PowerPoint vs Google Slides
[00:35:55] Don’t Get Carried Away with Animations
[00:48:37] How to use Notion
[00:52:13] Other Apps
[00:53:19] The App Souf Couldn’t Live Without
[00:54:07] Find Out More About Souf
[00:00:00] Souf: One day I was watching a series on Netflix, and then I watched one episode, two episodes, and then another one, and I realized, yes, could we get that on finance presentations?
They will also detect if you are reading your slides. For example, if you have a text on your slide, if you start to read, you would get a pop-up saying, try to avoid reading your slides during the presentation, paraphrase it.
[00:00:32] Adam: Essentially you're telling me off for automating my presentations!
[00:00:37] Souf: Don't count on it 100%. It can do 70% of your work and it'll be good and it'll be well done but check again, double check, triple check whether it'll be good or not.
[00:00:52] Adam: Hello and welcome to Tech for Finance, where we help finance professionals leverage technology to level up their lives. I'm your host, Adam Shilton and in this episode we're chatting with Soufyan Hamid, or Souf for short. Souf started his career at PwC, spent almost five years as a manager at Deloitte and seven years at Proximus as a finance business partner and manager of strategic projects.
Souf is now an FP&A freelancer, but also trains finance teams on how to improve their presentation skills. When he's not doing that, he's spending time with his daughter of eight and son five, attending concerts and playing football, in his words, badly, and he also likes cooking and drawing Dragon Ball Z characters like myself. Before we start, if you like what you hear today, please remember to subscribe to Tech for Finance on your favorite podcast platform and on YouTube, and for more content, head over to techforfinance.com. Thanks for joining me today too, Souf.
[00:01:50] Souf: Hello, Adam. How are you?
[00:01:52] Adam: Very good. Very good. As I say, not bad for a Thursday today. We've got the annual company conference on Saturday, so I had to buy a tuxedo last minute, so I wasn't too happy about that, but it's done now. [chuckles]
[00:02:06] Souf: Yes, I'd love to see it.
[00:02:08] Adam: Yes, well, I'll send you a picture if you really want to see. Again, thanks for joining today, Souf. I was keen to get you on because I follow a lot of your LinkedIn content and what I'll do after the show is obviously I'll include some links to some of your stuff. It's very difficult to describe to people that are listening on audio, but I describe it as very immersive. There's a lot of humor in there and it's just great content to absorb, especially obviously if you work in finance or even if you just want to learn a bit more about how you can sharpen up your presentation skills there.
Now over to you, Souf. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about because obviously you are now doing the freelance and the presentation stuff full time. Do you want to tell us a little bit of the story about when that came, where you decided to move away and start doing things for yourself?
Souf: Well, indeed, I can speak about this experience on my side. It all started during the pandemic period. I was rethinking about my career and I thought about the time that I was working at Deloitte. I was from one assignment to the other, I saw a lot of different companies and I was comparing to the life I had at Proximus and I was not really happy because I understood that it wasn't really for me to stay in the company so long.
I needed to see other companies, other people, other teams, learn new businesses, and this is why I decided to jump into the freelancing so I could change environment every now and then and that could give me the freedom also to develop my other hustle, which is to help finance people, develop their presentation skills.
Adam: Why focusing on presentation skills specifically? What was it that drew you to that?
[00:04:20] Souf: Well, that comes from Proximus, actually, because I was the typical finance professional technician, really good at Excel modeling. I was not doing much more than this. I remember the VP of Finance at Proximus just told me month after month that he did not understand my presentations. He did not understand how I structured my slides, how I explained my work.
One day he told me, "Yes, Soufyan, you're a technician, and people in front of me won't be technicians, so you have to change that." This made a click, and at that moment, I decided to follow trainings, internal and external, to improve those presentation skills. After those trainings, I realized, and a lot of people gave me the feedback that I was really good at it, but being good at it was also noticing that there was a lack and there was a need in the finance sector to develop these skills, to make sure that a lot of colleagues throughout the world would benefit the same learnings I had at that time.
[00:05:45] Adam: I suppose it helps your freelance work as well, doesn't it?
[00:05:49] Souf: It does, because that helps me to sell myself how you do interviews in general, and for the moment, it's true that as a freelance, I'm free to do a bit everything I want, and the last project I've had since a month now is a full-time job as head of controlling for Belgian company, and that helps me there because indeed, it's an old company in which people are not used to finance people developing presentations that are more similar to what marketing does and what generally finance does, and I do get good feedbacks on it.
[00:06:40] Adam: Yes, and it's interesting that crossover between sales and marketing, and by the time this comes out, Souf and I were talking about a video that I'm posting tomorrow on LinkedIn, specifically about finance business partnering, but that refers to treating your internal team as customers. There is this theory that everybody is somebody that will get value in your service.
[00:07:11] Souf: Yes. When you see your internal team as clients, well, you have to treat them as such because you never know what they will become in the future. See, for example, today I have people working for me, at my clients I have a team of four people. Maybe in five or ten years, those people will be finance managers, finance directors somewhere else, and I will need those contacts in order to continue developing my business. It's clearly something I've learned when I was consultant, is that the networking is important, whether you are client-facing or not in your day-to-day life.
[00:08:07] Adam: For the people that aren't client-facing, that are a little bit more introverted. Maybe they'd consider themselves a bit less charismatic than a salesperson, for example, and some people are a bit scared about opening up and making themselves more visible, shall we say.
One of the posts that I saw from you was some people send their reports via mail or Power BI, others dare make a presentation out of it. Which of these two will get promoted? Which is very valid, but I suppose if you were giving advice, there's two parts to this question. The first part is, how can people build that confidence to say, "No, you know what, I am actually going to present this." Then the second part of that is, how do you know what sort of content is best delivered as a report and which is better as a presentation?
[00:09:10] Souf: Well, for the first part of your question, it's difficult to tell people that are shy, introverted, that don't want to be in front of other people to do it, but the hard truth today is that if you're not seen, you're invisible, and that might work up to a certain point. You see somebody who's good technically, but not in presentations, not in making an impression. Well, they will evolve maybe as a senior, maybe as a manager it becomes difficult to be a director, but you see the world of finance in LinkedIn everybody wants to be a CFO.
If you want to be a CFO, well, you have to develop those skills. Introverted, extroverted, it doesn't really matter. You know you will have to, and this can be trained. You will never completely forget your nature, but this can be trained, and as much as you practice, you will get to a result better than what you had in the past.
It's an advice I give, of course, because the world is what it is today, if you have not noticed, well, it's almost like you didn't exist. This is something that these kind of people have to realize if they want to evolve, and I'm not really saying that you absolutely have to become a CFO in your life. You do not even have to be a director if you're happy where you are this is what is the most important. The second part of your question was, can you remind me maybe?
[00:11:05] Adam: Yes. The LinkedIn post was send a report via mail or Power BI, others there make presentations. When you are thinking about what types of content deserve, say, an email or just a link to a Power BI dashboard, or what content requires that communication, how do you think about that?
[00:11:27] Souf: Well, if it's only informative, it doesn't really require a presentation. If you just have to give information, well, you don't need this link, you don't need this presence, you don't need this contact with the other people. When you have to convince, influence, or even facilitate a discussion, then a presentation will be better because you will not let a decision be taken without your input, without your insights, and without you directing where the discussion should lead to. This is why I make this difference. A lot of people gave me feedback about this post. It's true that giving your report, giving mail is not bad as such, but you will lose the opportunity to make an impact.
[00:12:29] Adam: I totally agree. It comes back to that building influence, creating an in impact, as you say. Thanks for breaking that down. Just whilst I'm thinking about it, and I suppose it depends what systems you use. The standard profit and loss, balance sheet management account type reports. They're the informative reports that might not always need some perspective unless there's some sort of drastic change, I guess. I guess what I'm driving at there is it would be nice to think that we are not reliant on Excel for that sort of stuff, and we can get to the point where it's automated and sent out automatically.
The point there about Power BI from what you've seen, is there still a bit of a learning exercise with stuff like Power BI because a lot of people still prefer, or just send me the Excel report. They don't necessarily want to log into a dashboard link, especially if they don't necessarily understand the dashboard. What's your perspective on categorizing information? What is a good use case for Excel? What is a good use case for Power BI?
[00:13:46] Souf: For me, Excel is a tool to work upon the data, not to report it. Power BI is excellent as a dashboard, as a report, as information you would give. If you are really excellent, you can even make some simulations in Power BI. Not that far. I know a bit of tax, I know a bit of how to build new measures and that depend on the slicers you selected. If you want to modalize something planning to forecast a budget, even making a business case, Power BI will not be the tool. It really depends on what you want to do with the data.
It's a bit like we said for presentations, if you want to report, give information, and let the people play with it so that they have new questions, then Power BI is the perfect tool. Excel is more of a playground in which you make your analysis and go further to build something on it. I don't see Power BI as this kind of tool.
[00:15:03] Adam: You can of course set Power BI on top of spreadsheets. Of course, you do the building in Excel when you can visualize it with Power BI. The reason I ask is, my business itself is evolving, and I've been having more and more conversations around tech Stacks because with software evolving, I mean, years ago there used to be a case to say, well, we're going to get rid of all of our spreadsheets and we're going to go for an NDRP system. Actually, there's a lot more companies now that are taking more of a modular approach, especially in finance.
Everybody knows that an ERP system is only going to go 75, 80% of the way to tackling all of your requirements. As you mentioned there, there's very few ERP systems, unless you're spending six or seven figures that will do all of the advanced modeling, the budgeting and planning, and all of those sorts of things. We do get into a scenario where you've got a core finance platform, you've got an FP&A solution that you use for modeling, you've got your Power BI.
In my world as is for your own business as well, there's a bit of CRM, where are we getting customers from? Where's the revenue coming from? There's a bit of the finance stuff in the middle, but then there's also stuff like customer service and support. If you are taking that modular approach when you've got information in all different places, sometimes the only way to bridge that is with something like Power BI.
I'm still getting to terms with it myself because I've only ever modeled Power BI on an Excel spreadsheet. Maybe not the best thing to say for somebody who runs a podcast called Tech for Finance. Is that what you are seeing more of? Are you seeing companies build a bridge using something like Power BI? It doesn't have to be Power BI, I mean there's loads of others, isn't it? There's Click, there's Tableau, there's all of those sorts of things as well.
[00:16:56] Souf: I work more for big corporations, so they generally have the means in order to have a big ERP system upon which they build BI solution that gathers information from the different environments, from the different data lakes. In that case, I don't really see people starting to build upon Excel. Excel is really a tool that people use when they get information from those sources. Indeed that's something that's seen as a risk to build from Excel.
[00:17:39] Adam: Yes, because there's then questions over accuracy, isn't there? Is the data real-time? Is it stuff that was dumped out to Excel two weeks ago? All that sort of stuff. Anyway, it was more of a question to scratch my own niche rather than anything else. We've gone a bit off track on the questions there, so apologies.
Anyway, back on track. There was another post that I quite liked from you, and I think it turned out to be quite popular, that was present like Netflix and make finance addictive. Can you take us through that a little bit? Again, I'm not going to read the post slide by slide, but can you give us the highlights of how you consider making finance addictive?
[00:18:20] Souf: Yes, indeed. That was mostly coming. One day I was watching a series on Netflix, and then I watched one episode, two episodes, and then another one, and I realized, yes, could we get that on finance presentations? Well, it's not really the same, but there are some learnings that we have to take from there. This is mostly how we make sure that what we deliver as presentation has the structure to get to the rhythm of Netflix series, HBO series.
I don't want to especially give a name, but the goal today there is mostly to say that the showrunners, the directors of the series make sure that you have enough information, so you can build your thoughts, but not enough to get to the final conclusion so that the little pieces that they give you each time make you want to see the next piece.
That's why I generally say you have two schools in presentations. A lot of people say you have to give your conclusions directly upfront. The bluff, bottom line, upfront. I'm not in that school because I want to give enough so they are interested in getting to understand the rest of the presentation, but not the full conclusion. Otherwise, they have enough, they will ask questions. The whole presentations you would have given is transformed a little bit.
What I learned from Netflix is that you have to give a bit of information of the present, a bit of information of the end so that people put their pieces together and you cut your full presentations into small pieces that help the people not only understand but somehow getting to the conclusion until the moment they get the information, which will be the aha moment. In that moment, you have the power to deliver the end of your presentations and the way forward, which is basically the cliffhanger to the next season.
[00:20:57] Adam: Fabulous. Little teasers, little cliffhangers all along the way until the moment of realization at the end, or the finale. The finale that leads into season two. To be continued thing. Have you either watched or listened to The Diary Of A CEO Podcast?
It's hosted by a British guy called Steven Bartlett. He's only 30. It's one of the top podcasts now, though I think. It's doing really, really well. He's got some pretty high-profile names on recently. Richard Branson, Derren Brown, some really high-profile individuals. At least for me over in the UK, who considers those guys as high-worth individuals. I don't know what it's like in Belgium and whether you follow those people as well.
The reason I mentioned it is the intros to those podcasts, if you're not listening and you're watching on YouTube, are amazing teasers. What they do, and it's obviously a really good production team, but they do obviously the big attention-grabbing captions, the subtitles that are in your face and can't be ignored. Then what they'll do is they'll take some of the best bits of the podcast and they'll cut off the audio just before they finish the sentence. It's all merged into it.
It's almost like a movie trailer, but for a podcast. It is focusing on that, if you don't watch the whole thing, you're not going to see what they said after that moment of all we've just cut you off there. Do definitely check out the YouTube. I'll send you the link after the facts and I'll put it in the show notes as well. It makes me giggle, actually, because I don't know how he does it, but a lot of the people that end up on his podcast end up getting really emotional and crying. I don't know whether that's deliberate or not, but it is quite an engaging podcast if you want to listen to it. Anyways, we digressed a lot there.
[00:23:00] Souf: You are making me cry today?
[00:23:05] Adam: [laughter] what do you think-- Let's imagine that you've got your data and you've determined that this is something that we want to present. Instead of giving a Power BI link or sending it on the email. What do you then think about next? What building blocks do you use to take that data and then convert it into a format that you'd consider to be engaging to your audience?
[00:23:31] Souf: The first building block is, of course, the analysis because you have your data, but you will not just throw data to your audience in a presentation, in a PowerPoint slide. You have to make an analysis. There I will not really give a lot of information on this because the principle is, at that moment to go into details in order to understand every single line of your analysis.
Then you have what we call getting the signal from the noise. You will have hundreds of variances from one project, one region. Here the ability is to be able to determine what's important, what matters. There are two things you have to know for that. It's first, is it important in terms of quantity or in materiality and the second one is, is it actionable.
If you have to report it to an audience, they have to be able to do something about it. Otherwise, it's just information. Those are two things that you have to know.
The second building block is, from that you have to create your big message. What do you want people to remember when they go out of the presentation? What's the single sentence they have in their mind? To do that, you have to be able to tell them what's the impact for them and what they can do about it. That's all in the message preparation and then you have the biggest building blocks, which is the preparation. You have your big idea. You have to know the steps that you have to give during the presentations.
That is important to remember in the Netflix thing that you have to give small blocks of information that will build their understanding and their implication into the storytelling. Then you have to prepare, of course, your visuals, your slides, so that people will have some visual references so that they remember better what you are going to say. Then the last element of preparation is something that not a lot of people do, is rehearsal. You have your message, you have your presentation, you have your storytelling, you have your visuals, but you have to train. You have to practice again and again so that you are ready for the moment you will deliver your presentation.
Don't do that for every single presentation. They have to be of a certain importance so that you invest time in that, but it's important to practice and rehearse. There are many ways to do that today. Just take a camera, ask people to attend your training, your presentation, but you can also do that with PowerPoint today because there is a rehearsal coach. There are ways to do this so you can be as ready as possible.
Then you have the last building block, which is actually the delivery of your presentations. You are in front of your audience, you are there, but you have to know how to behave, how to look at people, how to speak in terms of pace, in terms of wording. This is the last element that will be part of your presentation.
[00:27:35] Adam: Thanks for that. What I'll do is I'll do a step-by-step in the show notes afterwards. I'll take all of those good bits and I'll put them into easy-to-digest nuggets so that people can take that framework and apply it to their own presentation. Thanks for that too. Another question, because I've not used it, so you mentioned the PowerPoint rehearsal tool. What does it actually give you? Does it just give you a recording? Does it give you information on pacing, timing? What does it do?
[00:28:09] Souf: It gives you all of that. It helps you understand your pace. The number of words per minute, the number of words per second, or something like that. It also contains some intelligence. They will understand the filler words or as much as possible, try to avoid everything. That's something you want to use in order to avoid silences. They will detect it, of course, it depends on the language. The normal language of Microsoft is English, so they will be better when it comes to using English.
They will also detect if you are reading your slides. For example, if you have a text on your slide, if you start to read, you would get a pop-up saying, try to avoid reading your slides during the presentation, paraphrase it. When you end the recording, then you get a full report where they will give you advices, recommendations, they will tell you what you've done good, what you've done wrong. It will not detect the body language, it will not detect the eye contact, it's not that developed, but at least in terms of speaking, it's already a good, good claim.
[00:29:42] Adam: Just what you've highlighted there is such a little piece of the Microsoft ecosystem. It's amazing, isn't it, when you consider you've got Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and they're the main three, not to mention all of the teams and all of the productivity apps that sit in the background. It makes you wonder how much of those platforms you're not actually using, because as I say, what you've explained to me there is probably gold dust. I've just ignored it because it's just come up with a prompt saying, "Oh, do you want to do a bit of a rehearsal?" I'm like, "No, not now, I don't have the time," but you only know what you know, don't you?
[00:30:19] Souf: What I usually say, today a lot of people say they don't have time. The thing is, the more you know how to use those tools, the less time you will lose. It's the same for Excel, it's the same for PowerPoint, it's the same for any other tool. If you take the time, if you invest time, it's really to see as an investment. If you invest time to learn how to do things with the tools we have, most of us, you will save time in the future.
Here that's true that this rehearsal coach, the time you take to set up a meeting room with colleagues that won't come, don't want to come it might take too much time. Indeed, I understand that people don't want to do it, but you are in front of your computer all the time when you work in finance. You have the opportunity to use what you have in front of you. It'll take 10 minutes, 15 minutes, stop, but at least you will have tried and that's something that will help you definitely to build a better presentation.
[00:31:32] Adam: Yes, and I always use the-- it's a cheesy comparison and it's a sports analogy. I always talk to it in tennis terms because I'm more of a fan of tennis than I am a football but that's a conversation foot for another day, right? You take a tennis player or a football player, and you've probably heard this a lot as well, only a fraction of their time is spent actually competing. The majority of their time is spent practicing and what you end up doing if you don't practice, is you practice in a live situation. You are practicing with the people that you don't really want to be practicing in front of you want to give them the good stuff, right?
As much as I'm not a huge sports fan that helped really hit home, I'm doing my virtual tennis racket there. You see what I did there? Sorry. Terrible joke but that really hit the concept home to me that it makes so much sense when you actually think about it, but we're very quick to say, well, I don't have time to rehearse. Whereas you're absolutely right, that time invested up front can lead to a lot more reward and recognition down the line, I guess.
Yes, it is.
I'm definitely going to check out the rehearsal tool.
[00:32:46] Souf: It's newest version of a Microsoft office, so I'm not sure everybody has that, It's as from 365.
[00:32:56] Adam: Which brings me onto my next point. Was it yesterday or the day before you did a post about PowerPoint versus Google Slides?
I think the general consensus is that Microsoft has still got the edge because it's been established for longer. I think that tends to be the consensus, even though I know you were taking it from an unbiased perspective.
Taking the whole Microsoft versus Google thing to one side, obviously, there's different advantages to using different tools. Are there any other tools that you've seen? It could be more nuggets in Microsoft or Google applications that you want to share, but there any other tools that you sometimes use to make presentations more immersive? Is there point in adding animations and slick images and using your canvas and that stuff to develop a bit of a brand within your presentations, what stuff do you use?
[00:33:56] Souf: Well, when it comes to presentation, I'm used to say that this is the most human thing you can do. It's good to have tools, but where you have to invest more time is on training yourself and on developing your own skills.
You can use tools of course, but it won't really go further than the tools you are used to, Excel, PowerPoint, but for presentations the only thing I would add are animations, but this is part of PowerPoint, so it's not really new, but animations help people get attention where you need to hide information so that it's shown at the time you say it and not completely delivered in one time in a slide.
There are other things, but for finance presentation when you are really speaking about the results and you are going to a board, it's not really what I recommend, but you have participative tools like Mentimeter, Kahoot!, but don't do it in front of a board or a C-suite. It's just not the place.
We have other opportunities, we have different business partners in the company. If you are working with the marketing team sometimes It'll make you become the funny finance guy. It always helps develop better relationships than just the serious ones, but of course, the first step is to know your audience. Try to sense whether it's the place or not and in most of the case it won't be.
[00:35:55] Adam: I think you're right and I'll give an example of a meeting that I had a few weeks ago. I do some work with Sage and they've recently had a big rebranding. Some people like it, some people don't have spent millions and millions on this big rebranding but part of that rebranding comes this concept of flow. When you look at a lot the Sage content on their website and stuff, it's all moving images. It's like this circular figure of eight infinity type movement that they've got all over the place which is cool, especially if you're on a website because you want to be grabbed by a website and you do want to be grabbed by the content.
Coming back to the point that you said there about it being one of the more human things that you can do when you're presenting, I found during that Sage presentation that the animations that they had on all of their slides were actually taking my attention away from the person that was talking. It's about getting that balance isn't it? There's nothing they could do about it because of course the slides are pre-built by the sage marketing team so they have to use it to be on brand but I think as you say, there's a point where it becomes too much if there's so much going on screen that you're not actually picking up the message from the person.
[00:37:27] Souf: Yes, it's really what I recommend when I speak about animations is that it's good, but you have to be simple and sober. There are tens of thousands of animations possible if you try to play with angles and speed and pace and so on but there are maybe two, three that you might want to use in a normal finance presentation, like appearance disappearance maybe fading so that it's a bit more classy and that's it.
There are not a lot of use cases and you have to pick really well when you want to use it. The typical moment I recommend to use it is, for example, if you have a list, don't put the list directly on the screen, just point by point so that people listen to you, but they don't pay attention to the screen. Just when the moment the sentence appears, then they will directly speak to you because there's not much to read and they will be back to your speech. They will be back to listen to you so here, stay sober, stay simple.
[00:38:55] Adam: To summarize that a little bit, would it be fair to say that the way that we need to think about it is the slides should support your words, your words shouldn't support the slides?
[00:39:10] Souf: Yes, clearly. There's a disease I speak about, which is basically the weather forecast, presenter syndrome. See people presenting their slides, like it's the most important thing. It's not. The slides, if you prepared it well and you don't have a hundreds of slides, normally you shouldn't look at it during your presentations. You know it by heart. You just take a remote or if you don't have a remote, take your mouse and just click each time you have to pass to the next slide or to the next animation but normally you shouldn't have to look at it.
This is why in the preparations, I usually tell people don't spend more time preparing your slides than you spend preparing yourself because normally you are the center of attention. This is what a lot of people forget because we are used to put a lot of information on the slide, but it's not the case. Normally, you should be able with the headlines to summarize the slide and the visual is only there to support what you are going to say if it's not written on the slide even better, because they will be compelled to pay attention to what you said.
[00:40:38] Adam: Yes, absolutely it's all about creating those little teasers, those little cliffhangers, isn't it? It's [unintelligible] of the conversation with-- No, absolutely right. I've only got a few questions left because I'm conscious of your time. I'm going to add in a another one though so understand a little bit more about the systems you use personally to run your suit, the presentation guide business.
Before we get onto that, so going back to the point that you mentioned about investing the time upfront to get the reward later on, when it comes to my own content and my own work, I am constantly looking at ways that I can automate a lot of that manual stuff. I know I don't have the privilege of being able to pay like a personal assistant or anything like that. A lot of the stuff that I do is off my back with my own time. Something that I discovered recently, which I absolutely love. I'm assuming you've heard of Canva. Do you use Canva?
[00:41:46] Souf: Yes, I use it for my marketing slides. Every carousel that I make on LinkedIn, the pictures, and so on, those come from Slack [unintelligible] .
[00:41:57] Adam: There we go. Specifically, about the carousels on Canva, and for anybody who doesn't know Canva, it's basically like a complete online marketing brand toolkit. You can log in, you just say, oh, I want to create a LinkedIn post and it will give you templates and you can do whatever you want. Anyway, I'm not going to sing Canva too many praises because they're doing pretty well and I don't think they need- probably don't need any more business, but it's a really good tool.
Coming back to the carousels, there's a really cool tool in it called I think it's either Bulkhead or Bulk Import or something like that. What you can do is you can upload data from a spreadsheet and it'll automatically create the carousel slides for you without you having to duplicate them and enter the text yourself.
Now you've got to be clever with it because it will just duplicate your entire carousel. If you've got a front page and then a footer, it will duplicate those four times for how, so you've just got to do it with a content that repeats in the middle. That's a game changer because if we are doing like 11 tips to, or seven steps to, or whatever it happens to be, just put all of the content into Excel, click a button once and then it'll generate the entire carousel for me. That's a bit of a game-changer. I love that.
The reason I mentioned that is I have seen mentioned somewhere or not, and I don't know whether it's PowerPoint, I don't know whether it's another tool whereby a presentation tool will now use AI to build the slides off the back of your text. The reason I ask that question is because in the way that I work is I think in terms of text heading subheadings and bullet points.
I find it very difficult working from slide to slide producing content. I find it much easier just writing as though I were writing in a Word document. Do you have any experience with tools whereby you can essentially say to the system, "Here's my text, populate the slides," or would you still think we're really early and the systems that do that are pretty rubbish at it?
[00:44:02] Souf: If you do that, you have to be really organized in your head. You really have to have a good structure before starting beforehand. You will lose a bit the artistic way the artistic part of making a presentation. In finance, we do not have a lot of opportunities to be creative, so I understand your point but completely automating, I wouldn't do it because you also when you prepare your slides have to understand the human perspective when they will see the slide. Typically in a carousel, for example, you have to change the color every two, three slides in order to retain the attention of the viewer, change a bit the structure, change a bit the coloring of your wording. You can automate part of it.
As much as I do for carousels, I would do also for a finance presentation in which I try to change what I see that will not work. I observe it as I was completely in the audience without having presented because most of the time when you prepare something, you don't see the flows in it. This is what happens when you, for example, automate fully a presentation. See for example, if you have a PowerPoint link to Excel, you can automate it, every month you can use the same presentation and just make sure that the figures automated the text even can be automated. Then not only will you not tailor it to the situation you will present, but you lose the fun part of being a creator once in a while.
[00:46:19] Adam: Essentially you're telling me off for automating my presentations.
[00:46:24] Souf: Don't count on it 100%. It can do 70% of your work and it'll be good and it'll be well done but check again, double check, triple check whether it'll be good or not.
[00:46:39] Adam: 100%. We don't have time for the conversation now, but obviously, the whole concept of Chat GPT has exploded recently and there's all of this controversy about is it accurate content that it's producing because a lot of people are just copying and pasting and putting it out into the world and not checking it beforehand. I think that's what we're saying there, is the automation piece will only go so far, but it will always need a human lens, as you say, to say, is this meaningful? because otherwise-- It comes down to that whole quality versus quantity piece, doesn't it? I could also generate 12 carousels using bot-generated text. Are they going to be engaging? Probably not.
They would be boring.
You've caught me there because my carousels at the moment, they don't change color. Thanks to you, I'm going to have to go and change all of my templates now.
[00:47:38] Souf: You'll make some manual work and you will be happy about what you created see with your own two hands.
[00:47:47] Adam: [laughs] That's it. Well, I've got a load of guitars in the background, so I should be the creative one, not the automated one, but, hey there we go. We're coming up to half past. You still got 10 minutes?
Are you okay for [crosstalk]
[00:48:02] Souf: Yes, 10 minutes would be fine. 10 minutes fine.
[00:48:06] Adam: The last two questions are technology that you use at the moment, and then your favorite tech. They're the only two. I was curious, and I think I dropped you a LinkedIn message about it, but Notion. I'm still not 100% sure what it is. Part of me understands it as a notetaking app. Part of me understands it as like a teamwork, like a group workspace but you use it, don't you? Can you take us through [unintelligible]
[00:48:37] Souf: yes. I use it mostly for my knowledge depository. Indeed you have the possibility to make a database, you have the possibility to make a lot of things. Today it's true that I mostly use it for two things. One is knowledge depositories. You can create some pieces of information on which you can put tags and so find it back easily and you can use Kanban structure in order to understand. For example, I use it for my content. See you have an idea, you put it in draft, and then you make some researches, you put it in the column research in progress. Until it's posted, and then you can sometimes go back to when it was posted and just pick back some ideas.
It helps me doing that but also it helps you create pages. This is the part that I find the most interesting because it's a webpage. You can share it with people, you can make it public, and there you can just put forms, you can put almost anything that can be found on the internet can be embedded there. You can put an Airtable form, you can put a type form, you can put a video from YouTube, so it looks like a webpage and you can share information with some people, ideally in your team, but also outside of your team.
I think that I use maximum 20% of the features possible in notions. I'm not professional in there. Even their database system I find it complicated. It doesn't really work all the time. When it comes to database and information keeping, I prefer to use Airtable. It does look more like a spreadsheet.
[00:50:54] Adam: Some people listening have got a use case, Souf used one of the Notion landing pages for his New Year video, where we all got together to say Happy New Year. The way that that was set out and it worked really well, is on the left there was a video of you essentially explaining, this is what we want to do. Here's a good way of doing it and then you had a list of instructions underneath, which was the guidelines.
Then on the right, you had a drag-and-drop for the videos that people were sending you to be uploaded, and then below that you had a bit of a survey to say, 'Who are you? What're your contact details? And so on and so forth. That worked really well.
[00:51:37] Souf: Yes. Notion is good because it's completely free. You can put everything and you can structure it the way you want. You can just drag and drop items from one place to the other. For example, my box in which I had a text, I could just move it to another place and it's really flexible to use, so you don't have to lose your time creating a web page, knowing about HTML and all those languages. It's really working well, so it does the job.
[00:52:13] Adam: Very good. You've got Notion AirTable. Are there any others that are important?
[00:52:18] Souf: I use some Zapier sometimes when trying to automate some stuff. For example, when I wanted to share a template on my web page together the emails to gather the information, whether they wanted to or not, to get the newsletter or not. I used it for it. I think I could spend more time when I will have more developed products because for the moment, I'm more in B2B. I'm not really using a lot of internet connections to do it, but when I have a B2C product, maybe I will have to spend some more time automating my work.
[00:53:04] Adam: Very good. Last question then, before you can tell people more about where to find you is and it doesn't even have to be work-related, is there a gadget, an app that you use every day that you just couldn't live without?
[00:53:19] Souf: Yes, apart from LinkedIn? Yes, I use Spotify a lot, so I listen to music when I'm in the car, when I'm preparing food, even when I'm working, and when I have my kids. Also, I have to suffer the kid's songs or the stories. Definitely, Spotify is the app I use the most.
[00:53:47] Adam: Very good, favorite band?
[00:53:49] Souf: Not really. I'm quite eclectic. I do love rock music, Metallica, all those kinds of stuff. It does the job in the morning.
[00:54:07] Adam: Yes, a man after my own heart. Getting psyched up on a bit of rock and metal in the morning. No, perfect. Fabulous stuff. Where can people find your Souf? LinkedIn? I'll put your profile in the show notes.
[00:54:20] Souf: Yes, definitely. This is where I spend most of my time on LinkedIn. I have a website, but it's not really used a lot, so it's soufbp.com. I have a YouTube channel which can have some more content in the future, but for the moment, it's quite calm, so don't go there too much.
[00:54:51] Adam: [laughter] No. Perfect. As I mentioned at the beginning, I'll also put some of Souf's LinkedIn posts on the show notes, some of my favorites on there. There was a really good one today about responding to questions, so that's a little teaser for people to look at after the show. There we go. We'll leave that cliffhanger there and then all of the other stuff that we've been talking about today, that will go in there too but no, we really appreciate you coming on, so it's been great speaking to you.
Thanks for inviting me.
Thanks so much. See you later.
[END OF AUDIO]