Kenny Nguyen knows what makes a great presentation. And he should; he’s a CEO twice over. First, of ThreeSixtyEight, a modern agency that prides itself on marketing through clever content, and then as the co-founder and CEO of Big Fish Presentations, a service line of ThreeSixtyEight with a mission to ban boring presentations through design, coaching, and even speech writing. “We’re an integrated marketing agency that focuses on both the digital and custom experience,” he explains. “People really value attention, and we’re really good at getting people’s attention with substance. That’s all customer experience is; it’s getting people’s attention and telling the best story.”
It’s no secret then that presentations are Nguyen’s specialty. That’s why when he mentioned Beautiful.ai during his speaking engagement for professionals at Baton Rouge’s “Some Assembly Required” workshop, our ears perked up and we were honored to be on his radar. Even better, we learned that in a way, Beautiful.ai is all part of Nguyen’s master plan.
“I want to help more people than I’ve met,” the affable Nguyen says. “I want a friend everywhere.”
Sounds like the start of a beautiful friendship.
Finding his purpose
The accomplished twenty-eight-year-old might seem like a lucky overnight success, but while ThreeSixtyEight is only three-years-old, its hard-working leader is already storied.
A “proud Cajun Asian,” Nguyen is the son of Vietnamese parents who fled their home country during the Vietnam war. They lived all over the US before finally settling in Louisiana where they met at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and in 1990, their son was born. Nguyen, who still lives in Baton Rouge, proudly boasts his home-state of Louisiana as “the creative capital of the south.”
Despite the family legacy at LSU, Nguyen inherently knew that to get the education he wanted and needed, university wasn’t in the cards. He dropped out and instead took on many mentors, including his own father, who were already out in the field performing the kind of influential work he wanted to do.
With their guidance, Nguyen hit his stride quickly, establishing ThreeSixtyEight with co-founder Gus Murillo. “It was very strange that by society’s standards I was doing everything right,” he says, going on to note his inclusion on the 2019 Forbes Under 30 list amongst other awards and recognition for his national work, but, he reveals, “for some reason I felt very unhappy on the inside.”
Nguyen discovered it was due to living someone else’s definition of accomplishment, explaining, “I was only doing things that people expected me to do, especially with my success.” He sunk into depression and started therapy, which he calls, “a great tool.” His breakthrough came when he realized he needed to define what success really meant to him, and then, “to never forget it.”
In time, he figured out his version of success and it became the crux of not just his personality, but his business endeavors. “As I stated earlier, I want to help more people than I’ve ever met,” says Nguyen. “That’s really the plan; to let people have success and influence.” Once he changed his perspective, he started to do his exact same work regimen with a new outlook and his company took off in ways he never imagined.
“Fresh perspective is one of the cheapest things you can get,” the now happier CEO says, “You don’t even have to change your surroundings, just your outlook.”
Embracing the competition
One other aspect of Nguyen’s life where he changed his perspective? He laughs, “When Beautiful.ai first came out, I thought, 'Oh no, here’s a disruptive competitor!'”
However, his panic didn’t last long.
Nguyen soon realized the benefits of handing people — including some of his ThreeSixtyEight clients — a powerful way to visualize and sell an idea fast.
Says Nguyen, “Clients really just need help and speed, especially when we live in this rate of change. Beautiful.ai streamlines a lot of design processes.”
The presentation guru now totes Beautiful.ai to clients as the best alternative to bespoke presentations. If you’ve ever sat through a Louisiana State University or a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana presentation, you probably saw Beautiful.ai in action.
Some may question why the successful owner of a leading presentation design agency would recommend a different presentation design tool, but to Nguyen the answer is simple: “We need to live in a how-do-we-build-trust economy. We want to help people visualize their ideas and be influential. Beautiful.AI helps people do that on a smaller scale by guiding clients towards the right presentation decisions. It allows people to focus more on the delivery and content. That’s so important to the experience. It makes people stress less, so you’re more focused as a presenter.”
Nguyen admits he even uses Beautiful.ai for himself. “I’m not a designer,” he laments, “I’ve used it for myself because I know Beautiful.AI has my back and can help me create something really slick when I need it.”
Bringing the humanity back to presentations
However, as the author of The Big Fish Experience: Create Memorable Presentations That Reel in Your Audience, Nguyen wants you to know the presentation isn’t just about the slideshow. You have to bring a human aspect. “You want to show people something on the screen that still allows them to focus on you, not the slide,” he says. “You’re the show. That means you need simplistic content, high-quality design - which Beautiful.ai does-, and powerful delivery for a successful presentation.”
If that seems like an easy formula, Nguyen stresses, “At ThreeSixtyEight, we don’t have a one size fits all approach to decks. We lead with a strong set of questions. We want to know we’re solving the right problem.”
His key questions are straightforward, “I always lead with why, what if, how, and what’s at stake? If you don’t know what’s at stake people have no reason to listen.”
He underscores that this questioning is not just a presentation method but also how he now approaches every new endeavor at ThreeSixtyEight noting, “You tend to discover some really interesting answers, like humans love to take action, so a great presentation has to-dos, not takeaways.”
To get the most use out of those to-dos, he recommends asking your audience to perform a post-presentation task in 72 hours or less. “You really want momentum,” he says. “The outcome is always momentum. It’s the best KPI after a presentation. Then your audience feels like they took ownership and they think 'Damn, I am so happy I listened to that person.' That right there? That’s influence.”
His best advice for someone who wants to give an awesome and memorable presentation? Nguyen doesn’t even hesitate before answering, “Learn stand-up comedy.”
Nguyen recently started standup comedy as a way to challenge himself. “It got me really scared,” he admits. “You learn a lot. It’s helped me grow as a presenter.”
Nguyen has one caveat to his methods, however, and it’s an oldie but a goodie: “You have to know your audience,” he insists, “All my tips will help you, but you have to know your audience first.”