Boris Hristov is the Founder of presentation agency 356labs and a PowerPoint MVP. He has presented in 25+ countries and has been rated as the top speaker numerous times. Boris has years of experience as a trainer, mentor and consultant and works with companies like Deutsche Telekom, KPMG, Renault, Societe Generale, Roche, Publicis, Experian, Bosch, VMWARE, adidas and many, many more to help them craft and deliver truly effective presentations. His agency is also the only presentation agency in the world speaking at Microsoft Ignite – the biggest yearly event of Microsoft, attended by more than 25000 people.
In this conversation, Boris talks about 356labs.
Geetesh: Boris, tell us more about yourself and how did your presentation agency, 356labs, started? Also, what motivates you to create slides that stand apart?
Boris: I am an ex-IT person who for some reason got really interested in presentations. I went through a course on public speaking (because you know, there are “born speakers”) and I just became really passionate about it. Started spending hours and hours fine-tuning each and every slide, each and every word, each and every demo I was about to deliver. I got also really interested in analyzing other speakers’ presentations – from their story and slides to the way they were delivering it.
That maniacal focus, let’s call it, brought me to more than 25 countries across the world before I even turned 25. And then, that webinar happened where I was asked to share how I am building my slides. Did that one for a group of people in the US and two months later, I received a few e-mails from some of the people in the webinar telling me that “they applied it and they won the deal or got the promotion”. At that moment something told me: “I love presentations so much. I love spending time on them so much. Shouldn’t I try to convert that to a business?”. That’s how 356labs was born – a boutique presentation agency that is helping people and organizations from all sizes and industries present their stories in a truly effective way.
What motivates me, and I believe everyone in our team is the sole fact that we know that effective presentations have 3 components – story, design (the slides) and delivery and if one of them fails, you risk it all.
Just to put that into context, imagine what happens if you have the best story to tell (story) and you are a great speaker (delivery) but your slides have 40 bullet points per slide, as I like to say? People disconnect, right? And that’s if 1 component of them fails. Now imagine you have the best story to tell but your slides are bad + you are not an experienced and trained speaker so every second word you say is “ammm”, “ummm”, etc. Well, that’s not going to work out either, correct? I think it’s clear what happens if all of them fail. That is also the reason why we push so hard to have slides that are effective but also we work and spend insane amount of time on helping our clients with the other two components also.
At the beginning we thought, and we were actually named “presentation design agency”. After our first project, however, we saw that people need help not just with their slides but with their message and their deliver and that was the reason why we started pushing the message that we are not a “presentation design agency” but a “presentation agency”.
Geetesh: Where do you get your inspiration?
Boris: Everywhere. Simply everywhere and I would recommend your readers do the same. Look around you. Especially in terms of design. The products you are using or admiring – how do they look? What color combinations are they using? What shapes? What about that movie that you saw? Is there any “design lesson” that you can take from it and apply it in your slides? Start noticing things and you will find a ton of inspiration everywhere.
Geetesh: You use the Morph transition extensively in your slides. Can you tell us more about how Morph helps you tell the story better, and how you use it?
Boris: Oh, since the introduction of Morph in 2016, we at 356labs have used it indeed extensively for some of the biggest brands in the world. However, Morph is not something people should look at as a cure to bad PowerPoints. Yet, it’s a technology that when used right (meaning not on every slide if there is no reason for it), can indeed help tell our or our clients’ stories way better and way more effectively than before.
The fact that nowadays you can create those smooth transitions and thus visualize the connection(s) between each one of your ideas so easily is simply in such a big help for every presenter out there and we highly encourage people to experiment with this new technology. Again – when it adds to the message and not simple just because they can. I am tired of seeing otherwise extremely important presentations using transitions like Curtains or Origami “just because it looks cool”. No! Transitions and animations are there to add meaning to your message and if they don’t, you should be using them.