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!

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