How to Help Your Audience Learn and Take Action – Part 2

Steps to Presentation Success
Show Them the Clear Steps to Success

A few days ago, I wrote about some reasons why traditional presentation approaches don’t work very well and actually interfere with your audience’s ability to learn from and make decisions about the information you share with them.

Today I’m giving you the approach I recommend for creating a great presentation:

5 Steps to Better Presentations that Produce Better Results

1.  Define a clear goal for your presentation.

You must be extremely, pin-point clear about what results you want to achieve from your presentation.  It is not enough to just think “I want to convince this business owner to become my customer.”  Instead think about the precise step you want your audience to take next.  And in order to figure that out, you need to be aware of the concept of “staged selling”.

If you have never talked to this group of people before, how likely is it that they will be ready to buy a high-priced service from you after one presentation?  The stages required for your selling process will vary somewhat depending on the product or service, the cost, the competition, the situation of the presentation, and other variables.  But for a high-ticket purchase, it is fairly typical to use what is called “a two-call close”.

As an example, consider the situation of delivering a presentation to a business team who are also going to be watching presentations from several of your competitors.  Obviously they are not going to sign a contract with you yet if they still have 3 more presentations to watch!  So closing the sale would not be a reasonable goal for your presentation.

Instead you might want to focus on a goal of defining the criteria they should use to make their purchasing decision.  If you can persuade them to follow your criteria (criteria that should make you the logical choice), you will come across as helpful and informative, rather than sales-y, and yet you will increase the chances of your audience choosing you.  That goal would require a very different presentation, wouldn’t it?

2.  Make sure it’s “all about them”.

You want to engage your audience right from the beginning and give them a reason to keep listening to you.  The best way to do this is to let them know you understand their situation, you know the problem they are struggling with, and you can offer them a solution.  Getting the first 5 slides right is critically important for this.

3.  Limit the amount of information and structure it in a way that makes it easy for your audience to absorb, process, and make decisions.

You need to refine your message so that you’re not overwhelming your audience with too much information.  3 to 4 main ideas is about right for a typical 45-minute presentation.  More ideas than that and you will overwhelm their short-term memory or working memory.

You also need to structure your presentation in a way that makes it very clear which information is most important.  This helps your audience more easily remember and focus on those key points.  Identify the 3-4 main points and then organize all the other information as supporting points, examples, and details that enforce the main ideas.  This creates a presentation structure that goes deep into 3-4 ideas, rather than spreading shallowly across many ideas, leaving your audience feeling scattered and overwhelmed.

When the structure is optimized, you can lead your audience very effortless into your close and your “call to action”.  Whether your call to action is an offer to purchase something or simply a next step you want them to take in applying the information, it becomes the natural conclusion to the whole presentation because you’re telling them how you can help them solve the problem.

4.  Apply a metphor or story theme to your overall presentation.  This provides benefits like reducing resistance in the audience by getting them emotionally engaged in the story and giving them a familiar concept on which to anchor the new information they are learning from you.  Applying a “story structure” to your overall presentation is different than telling a series of stories in your presentation.

Story structure is what movie script writers use to build a dramatic arc that keeps the audience watching and listening and eager to find out what’s going to happen.  You can use story structure in your presentations to produce a similar effect in your audience.

5.  Design visually-oriented slides that express one idea per slide.  My approach to slide design is based on a number of cognitive research principles that show how difficult it is for people to read and listen at the same time.

The 3 main components of this slide design method are:

  • one idea per slide
  • a clear, concise, full-sentence headline
  • a large, dramatic, related graphic image

By using carefully chosen pictures, we can accomplish 2 things:

  1. We build and enhance the engaging story theme mentioned above.
  2. We allow the audience to take in the message in a way that the 2 channels, audio and visual, are actually supporting each other and enhancing the audience’s attention and learning.

This presentation methodology is designed to address the problems which I described in my post last week, which you can read here:  How to Help Your Audience Learn and Take Action – Part1

I’d love to hear your comments about either Part 1 or Part 2.  This is some of my best stuff so please let me know what you think!




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