9 Steps to Better Presentations: Part 6 – Tell a Story

9_-_A_Simple_Guide_to_Better_Presentations.020NOTE: This is the sixth in a series of posts taken from our guide 9: A Simple Guide to Better Presentations. Can’t wait and want to get it all now? Download the eBook for FREE here.

In their book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath explain that stories inspire us to act. We love hearing about a team that overcomes impossible odds to win (the 1980 USA hockey team) or someone who crosses boundaries to make a better world (Rosa Parks) or people who solve a problem in an innovative way (NASA engineers on the Apollo 13 mission).

Why? They motivate us. In the stories of others, we visualize ourselves overcoming the odds, making a better world, and solving the problem.

Stories are also emotional, and we remember what we feel.

Stories engage us in ways that facts and figures don’t. Don’t just give a talk; invite your audience into a story.

2 Questions You MUST Ask Before Giving Any Presentation

Ask these two important questions before you begin your presentation :: Renovate Communication Design, LLCYou’ve probably attended a meeting or presentation and, early in, thought, “This has no relevance to me at all.”

Or maybe you’ve sat through the entire meeting and wondered, “Now what?”

You can avoid these common pitfalls in your own presentations if you answer these two critical (but sometimes rarely asked) questions before you begin working on your content or making slides.

1. Who’s coming?

Who will attend your meeting or presentation?

Spend five minutes thinking about them. Picture their faces, say their names. What do they want? What are they afraid of? Jot down your answers on paper.

Want to go one step further?

Ask them yourself. Walk around the office and talk to your co-workers. Or put together a short survey and send it to them. This is especially helpful if you’re leading a workshop or seminar and have the attendees’ email addresses before the event. You can quickly create a survey and collect the responses easily with a Google Form.

The better you understand who’s in your audience, the more you can tailor your message to their needs. And the more relevant it is to their needs, the more they’ll appreciate your talk–and you.

2. What do I want them to do?

A boring presentation delivers information.

A good presentation motivates people to act.

Once you understand your audience and their needs, decide what you’ll want them to do.

In his massively bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey calls this “beginning with the end in mind.” You can apply the same idea to your presentations.

Do you want prospects to buy? Parents to change the way they talk to their teens? Students to get their work done? Employees to buy in to a new way of doing things?

Determine what you’ll ask them to do and then work backwards–build everything in your meeting or talk with the end in mind. This keeps your message focused and gives your audience clear direction when its over.

For your next presentation, start by asking these two questions and you’ll see a difference.

Make better presentations with the Presentation Renovation eBook + audiobook

Insights on Sales and Presenting from Dan Pink’s New Book, To Sell Is Human

To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink - Renovate Communication Design, LLC blogYou’ve probably found that a good part of your day is spent persuading others. Bosses persuade (or tell) their employees to get things done. Workers cajole their colleagues. Parents implore their children. My kids seem to possess a persuasion gene when they want something from me. If I had that gene, it’s apparently recessed over the years.

If you present or speak regularly, you already know this because you’re in the persuasion and marketing business. That’s the perspective we take in our Presentation Renovation approach.

So if we’re all attempting to influence those around us, wouldn’t it make sense to learn how to do that well?

Dan Pink’s new book, To Sell Is Human, is like a toolbox packed with the stuff you need to effectively persuade and influence others. The key here is effectively.

Like Dan’s other books, TSIH is built on loads of interviews, observation, survey data, and social science research. He convincingly makes the case that, while 1 out of every 9 workers in the U.S. is “in sales,” the work environment has changed enough over the years that many of us spend up to 40% of our days in “non-sales selling:” persuading, influencing, and convincing others in non-purchase situations.

So you may not be Willy Loman but you’re still likely selling–whether you sell for a living or not.

TSIH is divided into three parts. Part One explains how this new world of selling/persuasion came to be. The second and third parts, briefly summarized in the video below, help equip you with the tools you need to work effectively in the new world.

Although the book won’t be available for another week, I’ve read a pre-release copy and it’s full of good stuff. (By the way, if you preorder before December 31, 2012, and send Dan your receipt, he’ll send you a nice little bundle of goodies for free.)

Here are just a few of the surprising insights you’ll find (with a view especially toward presenting).

Extraverts don’t make the best salespeople (or speakers)

It seems to be one of those unspoken truths: you have to be outgoing to sell or speak. If you beat yourself up because you’re not a back-slapping glad-hander, relax. In fact, research shows that people who ride the fence between introversion and extraversion—ambiverts—do better than either group because they can both listen (which introverts do well) and respond (which extraverts do well—see TSIH, chapter 4).

This results from what Dan calls attunement, the ability to see things from a point of view other than your own. It’s about getting inside the head of your audience–something that good speakers and presenters do even before they hit the stage.

Pumping up with positive self-talk is less effective than peppering yourself with questions

If you’ve felt stage fright before a talk (we all have and do), maybe you’ve given yourself a little pep talk: “I can do this, I’ll be great, they’ll love me!” Instead, interrogative self-talk—asking yourself questions—may be more effective.

When you ask questions, you automatically start seeking solutions (see TSIH, chapter 5). This is the quality of buoyancy, the ability to keep going in the face of rejection—an essential skill for salespeople and presenters alike.

Next time you prepare a talk, don’t give yourself a pep talk (“This is going to be a great talk!”). Rather, ask, “How can I make this a great talk for my audience?” Then figure out how to do that.

Uncovering problems for your audience/client may be more valuable than offering solutions

A good speaker (or salesperson or consultant) should be an expert at asking questions. Why? When you’re awash in information and data, what you really need is someone to help frame the problem you’re trying to answer. Asking good questions reveals the problem that ultimately needs to be addressed. Clarity is the quality that helps you do just that (see TSIH, chapter 6).

Some compelling research shows that creativity is really about finding problems, not finding solutions:

[the] people most disposed to creative breakthroughs in art, science, or any endeavor tend to be problem finders. These people sort through vast amounts of information and inputs, often from multiple disciplines; experiment with a variety of different approaches; are willing to switch directions in the course of a project; and often take longer than their counterparts to complete their work. (TSIH, 129*)

If you regularly present or train on a certain topic, incorporate ways to ask your audience questions–not necessarily for the sake of providing answers, but for provoking and gaining insight. Let your audience work a little bit.

Learn to persuade with the new ABCs

To Sell Is Human contains a number of practical exercises and tools to help you learn attunement, buoyancy, and clarity. In addition, presenters and consultants will find a great deal of application (not to mention thought-provoking ideas) in the last three chapters which cover pitching, improvising, and serving. For example, instead of a 30- to 60-second elevator pitch, can you pitch your business or idea with just one word? And could studying improv help you with your persuasion skills? Interestingly, speaker Scott Berkun and coach Nick Morgan have recommended improv lessons/workshops as well. And, at its heart, selling is really about serving: making the world a better place. Isn’t that why we present as well?

Treat yourself and your team to Dan Pink’s new book, To Sell Is Human. Highly recommended.

*Page numbers based on the pre-release copy. The published page numbers may differ.

Presentation Renovation Audiobook Launches Today

Make better presentations with the Presentation Renovation eBook + audiobook

For less than the price of a decent lunch, you can start making better presentations

As we mentioned last week, we’ve taken the Presentation Renovation eBook and cooked it into a 60-minute audiobook for you, read in the silky voice of Renovate’s own Deanne Mott. Now you can continue to develop your understanding of better presentation design—strong messages, dynamic visuals, and credible delivery—while you’re on the go. Listen and learn at the office, in your car, on the run—anywhere you take your computer, phone, or portable music player. It’s the perfect complement to the eBook.

And to make the process even easier, we’ve created a tutorial that shows you how to use iTunes to listen to your audiobook.

The audiobook is available in the Renovate store for $10. If you don’t have the Presentation Renovation eBook yet, you can get the bundle (which includes both the eBook and the audiobook) for only $14–you’ll save $3.

Renovate’s No-Risk Guarantee

As always, we want you to be delighted with your purchase and tell your friends. If you’re not completely satisfied, tell us within 60 days and we’ll promptly refund your purchase price.

Head over to the Renovate store and grab your copy now.

You’re just 60 minutes away from renovating your next presentation.

What’s the Most Important Characteristic of a Leader?

What should leaders be doing in their organizations?

A recent SmartBrief poll asked readers that question; the results are shown below.

SmartBrief on Leadership - What's the most important characteristic of a leader?

Notice that the top three results all center on one thing: communication. In fact, these three communication activities account for nearly 80% of the results.

That’s telling.

If you’re in leadership (or aspire to be), investing in your communication skills can make a huge difference with your employees, followers, organization, and customers.

Develop your communication skills with our eBook, Presentation Renovation. Learn to build stronger messages, design dynamic slides, and present with influence.