Presentations and Communication

What Does “Powerful” Mean?

What do we mean when we say that a presentation is powerful? It’s got great content? It was graphically engaging? The delivery was captivating to convert people to “buy” into the proposition? All of the above are true, but the most important part is whether it had IMPACT – produce the desired deal. Since the average viewer generally is not the final decision-maker, impact is determined by what happens after the presentation.

When the presentation is over, the viewer needs to be committed to taking action (based on the features mentioned), remember the key points and be able to communicate it almost as effectively as the original presenter did.

For many presenters, this is where the breakdown takes place. For instance, all necessary content is considered when preparing the presentation; but usually it’s more than the audience needs to hear and more than they can remember. WINNING means producing a presentation with What’s Important Now (WIN) only! Delete the clutter – it distracts from the core message and the ability to remember it clearly! Powerful means grabbing attention and keeping it by being succinct for quick grasping of key points in a memorable manner (e.g., “3 points”) which the listener can remember and communicate to others. Slides with too many facts and/or presenter with too many words, makes it difficult to remember the key point and easily repeat it to the final decision-makers. Further, words need to be simple and powerful for one person to communicate with others. “They had a breakthrough year, tripling sales and profits” is a memorable conclusion, you are likely to share; a whole paragraph discussing it, is not.

Similarly, charts with too many details and boring headlines (e.g., Sales History 2013-2018) that don’t telegraph the important point (“Sales are Doubling Annually, for 5 years”), don’t make it easy to tell the final decision-makers. For instance, yesterday I sat in a presentation in which a slide showed three charts side by side, with boring titles on each, so much detail that it was hard to discern the real trends, and did not use the same color line for each company when charting (e.g., IBM was blue, red and green) in the three charts. The audience spent time trying to make sense of what chart was saying, and had no ability to grasp quickly the important point to remember and communicate easily to others.

Suggestion: rehearse your presentation with someone not familiar with the information before delivering it. When finished ask them to share with you the three key takeaways. If the person gets them all, immediately, you have a Powerful Presentation. Similarly, if you do not win a deal, give take the test and see what happens. If the person can’t remember and communicate, then it’s time to master the basics of Presentation Excellence.

What’s your experience with powerful presentations? Share with us.

Getting to “Yes” in Presentations

Always on the lookout for strategies and tactics that can help presenters close more deals, here’s an approach which Adam Grant (in Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World) calls: the Sarick Effect.

When developing a presentation, most of us focus on:

  • Identifying the key message we want to communicate (using the ADAP formula) so it’s compelling
  • Including supporting factual and emotional information
  • Structuring and designing the presentation so it’s engaging
  • Making it powerful – memorable and communicable so the listener can easily share with others who need to make the decision.
  • Including a sense of urgency, so the prospect will want to take action

When we do it well, we have an excellent likelihood of winning.

Rufus Griscom used a different strategy in making a presentation to help raise money for a start-up. Presenting it to Disney, he started with a slide that read “Here’s Why You Should Not buy Babble” After that he listed several challenges, obstacles and disappointments the company had encountered so far.  Disney ended up buying the company for $40 Million.

Leslie Sarick, a social scientist, provides the insight into why this approach works.  In most presentation situations, we try to be persuasive by emphasizing our strengths and minimizing our weaknesses. For an audience that’s generally supportive, this is an effective approach. But when you present to a skeptical audience, which investors often are, as they listen to your message, they’re looking to poke holes in the arguments and find reasons your suggestions won’t work.

Leading with weaknesses accomplishes four objectives:

  • It disarms the audience which was looking for a “sales” pitch
  • It makes you, the presenter, look smart and honest.
  • It increases people’s assessment of you as trustworthy
  • It increases the audience’s favorable assessment of the idea itself, as they search harder to find the positive elements.

If you ever considered buying a public company IPO, you probably read a government approved Prospectus before placing the order. It’s full of RISK FACTORS which are designed to discourage a person from making the purchase. In other words, the government understands the Sarick effect and wants potential investors, especially retail buyers to be skeptical before making an investment.

This approach reinforces our ADAP – Audience Driven, Authentic Presentations – formula. Some audiences will be skeptical and presenting the negative side of the “ledger” is critical to getting them to make a decision. Thus, a third approach is to combine the two styles: when presenting a new idea, starting positive is important. When asking for action, going negative about what’s happened so far in executing it, demonstrates excellent management and leadership skills: the ability to see what’s going wrong, assess what to do to correct the problems, and the willingness to be transparent.  This further explains why you’re looking for financial or other support, now, and adds to your credibility and sense of urgency.

When you present, have you ever used the Sarick effect to increase your effectiveness? If so, share your experience. If not, consider when it’s appropriate and the next time you use it, share that experience!

Metaphors Are Memorable

 

Think about the recent election cycle.  When Donald Trump wanted you to thinkabout an opponent ina derogatory way, he found a simple metaphor – that stuck.

Remember, these people? “Lyin’ Ted”, “Low-energy” Jeb, “Little Marco” Rubio, “Crooked Hillary” and  “Crazy Bernie”. Sure you do. Why, because, just as a picture is a thousand words, metaphors are memorable because they paint the “big picture” and leave out all the words, that often no-one wants to read!

In Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer, remind us of this point and give us some interesting pointers when we’re engaged in selling.  In a sales situation, the first thing you need to do is set the framework – draw a picture of what your prospect’s world looks like.  This allows you to demonstrate you understand his/her world and enables you to help create the framework you want to use.

(Remember, in the “old” world of sales, where people were to note features, sell benefits and overcome objections, the objections usually came from the fact that your framework missed key issues and they arose “objections”. For instance, if you’ve qualified the prospect as having the budget you need, and created a framework for high ROI and value, then price isn’t an objection anymore.)

After you’ve created the Big Picture, present the detailed sales points, providing evidence to support each one. Then, close with a metaphor that summarizes your point and makes it memorable.  Another example: a client with a warehouse, created a sales pitch in which he notes the pain many customers experience in other facilities (often hidden charges, complications, slow services), describes the quality, speed and efficiency of its logistic services, while showing the facility, and ends with a metaphor that appeals to the emotional side of the buyer:  warehousing made easy.

What metaphors do you use in your sales presentations?  Share them with us!

The Customer is the Hero, Not You!

Years ago , when I founded Brilliant Image, a computer presentation graphics company, I trained my sales people to understand our mission:  to help our customers (who make presentations to win over the audience) become heros.  It was a key part of our culture for 15 years, till we sold the company.  In Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer, identify the same approach in sales by noting the need to “keep the customer the hero of the story”.

Their concern is about the language we use. All too often a salesperson shows up, analyzes the situation proposes a solution, and then the customer adopts it and is a success.  The issue is whether “I/we” found the solution (meaning the salesperson is a hero) or the customer found the solution. Smart salespeople keep the buyer focused on their ability to execute great solutions so they can feel like heroes.
Great sales presentations focus on the customer and make him/her the hero directly. Good people in the company are trapped by a system or process in a world that changed and now isn’t meeting the needs of its people, and the customer is looking for a solution, found it and adopts it.  By saying “I/we are introducing this new element to you”, you’re stealing some of the thunder and that diminishes their role as the hero solving the problem.

For instance, a sales person would say “Since the world changed (e.g., entry of a new competitor, new regulations, new technology, etc. that interfere with the system that was working well), changes are needed. You need a new system that takes into account these changes. Companies come to us for the ways to succeed in the new environment, and when they do they’re able to identify the competitive advantage they need.”

As they note, you’ll still get the credit for helping them, but now they do so as a generous hero, rather than an obliging customer.

How do you help focus the customer on being the hero?  Share your approach with us!

Analyzing a Powerful Commercial

You’re probably familiar with the Geico tagline – “Fifteen minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance” commercial.  Have you ever thought of why it’s so effective?

Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer, in Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, make an interesting observation about it:

  • It talks to you, not at you.
  • It first addresses your emotional need – minimum time commitment – to increase acceptability
  • It focuses on your objective need – people know that insurance is a necessary evil, so why overpay, as you probably would if there’s a middleman who has to spend more time
  • It uses specific numbers (e.g., 15) which are more believable than generalizations
  • By using the number 15, twice, it increases memorability.
  • It simultaneously addresses two needs, not just one: the ability to make your life better (save money) and less stressful (15 minutes)

Think about some of the commercial company taglines – what makes them powerful?  Share it with us.

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