Why Presenting = Marketing = Storytelling (Borrowing a Riff from Seth Godin)

At their best, presentations are really marketing pieces.

And marketing is simply getting people to know, like, and trust you. Marketing is building relationships and helping people with their problems.

Isn’t that what you do when you give a talk, lead a meeting, or meet with a prospect?

And the best kind of marketing (and presenting) is really storytelling.

When you tell a believable, emotional story that resonates with your audience, you can get them to move.

Seth Godin riffs on this in his post today:

On the path from awareness to a sale, the marketer has to create a vacuum.

The goal of that short film or that sales letter or that invitation to a seminar shouldn’t be to answer every question and completely describe what’s on offer. No, effective marketing amplifies awareness of a problem or an opportunity, a problem the product or service solves or an opportunity it creates.

I know it’s tempting to sell with bullet points and an overwhelming amount of data. It gets you off the hook and requires little in the way of creativity or guts. Storytelling requires both.

When you put your presentation together, you need more than data. Yes, the numbers are important–but more important is making a connection. Numbers don’t connect; story and emotion do.

Want to see this illustrated? Check out Seth’s TED Talk, “How to Get Your Ideas to Spread.” It’s ten years old at this point but it’s still true.

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.

More Thoughts on Student Presentations (and VC Pitches)

Last night I sat through presentations put on by students at Lincoln Christian University. My colleague, Rob Maupin, teaches a senior-level intercultural studies class in which his students work in teams to identify a ministry need (typically overseas) and then develop a strategy to meet that need. The course culminates in a pitch delivered before a panel that evaluates the students’ projects and decides whether to fund the projects (or not). Essentially, these are VC pitches.

This semester’s teams had spent weeks preparing and it was evident in their work–these were the best presentations for this class I’ve seen in the past three years. Here are a few observations and points for improvement:

  • You can never practice too much – While the presentations were good, they could have been better. Better comes only with practice.
  • Have your best presenter lead the presentation – Your team leader may not be the best presenter. Hand that task over to best speaker in your group.
  • Use a remote to advance your slides – Don’t shackle yourself to the computer/podium, pressing the space bar to advance your slides or–worse–advancing your slide, walking out to the audience, then heading back to the computer, back to the audience, rinse and repeat. It’s distracting and you want to minimize distractions.
  • Get to know your audience – It’s a long-standing sales truism: people do business with people they like. Spend time before the presentation mingling with people in your audience. Learn their names, find out what matters to them.
  • Listen – Many pitches are made by tone-deaf presenters. They won’t (or can’t) make adjustments to their presentation even if the occasion warrants. Read your audience, hear their questions/concerns, and be prepared to step away from your script and slides.

If you have a presentation coming up soon, grab our free report, 16 Secrets for Better Student Presentations. You’ll find helpful principles there even if you’re not a student.
 
16 Secrets for Better Student Presentations - Renovate Communication Design, LLC

Build a More Creative Presentation by Acting Like a Two-Year-Old

Earlier this week my two-year-old daughter was wandering through the house aimlessly, mostly causing trouble because her brothers and sisters were busy and had no time for her. After several minutes of pointless reminders (“Eva, that’s not yours.” “Eva, hands off.” “Eva, don’t touch.”), my wife put her in the Pack ‘n Play (that’s a playpen for the old schoolers) with a few toys.

The point was not to punish her; in fact, just the opposite. By giving Eva a few things to do (instead of virtually unlimited things to do) and some well-defined boundaries, she was able to play happily and–bonus–without mom and dad’s intervention. After just a few minutes, we heard her singing “Happy Birthday” and hosting a party for her dolls. You can see she was having great fun.

How to make a more creative PowerPoint presentation - Renovate Communication Design, LLC

In the creative process, we call these seemingly counterintuitive limitations “constraints.” If you’re stuck in a PowerPoint rut, try something different and embrace the power of constraints. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use no more than six words on a slide
  • Use only one word on your slides
  • Don’t use any words–pictures only
  • Get rid of your template–try a plain white or black background
  • Choose one font (not the default) and use it for a month
  • Limit yourself to 20 or 10 slides. Or 50 slides.
  • No bullets
  • No special text animation or slide transition effects
  • Go find a cool presentation and try to copy its style
  • No slides (!)

Make a game of finding your limitations–what’s one thing you can do differently on your next presentation? The point is not austerity; the point is creativity.

Speaking of creativity, do you know the 5 phonetic R’s of creativity? You can apply them in your presentations or wherever you’re feeling stuck: work, school, relationships. There’s no limit to thinking creatively.

In many cases, a better approach is right around the corner if you’re willing to stop doing something that you’re used to. If you really want to shake things up with your presenting, try some of these suggestions from John Jantsch over at the Duct Tape Marketing blog: Five Alternatives to PowerPoint Presentations.

9: A Simple Guide to Better Presentations -- Renovate Communication Design, LLC

Why Your Presentation (Still) Doesn’t Work

So you’ve bought into the idea that you need cut the text on your slides.

Check.

And you’ve even rehearsed (something most people won’t do).

Check.

So why won’t they buy your idea?

Go back to your message and remember that your presentation is really about marketing. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Your audience doesn’t care about you; they care about what you can do for them.
  • Have you identified a problem your audience has? And do you have the solution to it?
  • Are you telling a believable, emotional, and compelling story (or just presenting data)?

Your presentation isn’t about PowerPoint or Keynote or Prezi or whatever. It’s about making a connection and telling a story.

Make better presentations with the Presentation Renovation eBook