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Psychological Biases: Loss Aversion in Sales Presentations

A negative response from defeat isn’t limited to real-life choices. They can also be present in business situations, including sales presentations.

If you’re stuck between the pain of losing and the fear of risking, then you’ll miss out bigger and greater opportunities ahead of you, like a new business venture, or a better career offer.

Never miss the boat on that new deal and business partnership. Let the psychological bias of loss aversion help you out in accepting losses to continually grow as a professional and achieve greater sales.

Defining ‘Loss Aversion’

People are reluctant to lose or give up something, even if it means gaining something better. Some play safe and avoid changes to protect their business from market loss or any disaster.

This phenomenon of escaping a losing position is known as loss aversion. First coined by researchers Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, it suggests that the desire of having something suddenly increases when someone takes it away. This means we tend to feel the pain of loss more than the pleasure of a comparable gain.

Even if losses are unforeseen, you shouldn’t let your fear of taking risks stop you from tasting the sweetness of success.

Why Use This in Presentations?

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Marketing campaigns and promos are two examples that explain this cognitive bias. For example, people are more likely to go shopping when they see ads like “For limited time only” or “Sale ends soon.”

In this case, the fear of losing promotions make people act on their impulse and can influence their buying decisions.

Using this technique builds up your product’s worth, helping you achieve company gain.

How to Make Loss Aversion Your Ally

Losses translated into gains attract more sales conversions. To persuade your audience to invest in your idea, focus more on highlighting the benefits.

Position your offer as if ignoring it means a great loss for investors. Explain what it does and how it differs from your competitors—from its uses, to cost, and new experience it might bring.

If you’re selling an advanced cooking equipment, try saying something like: “You won’t save up to 3 hours of cooking time if you skip this offer, and stick with normal ovens.”

No matter what you sell, it’s always important to put earns on top of the losses. Frame your product benefits well for them to make decisions quickly.

Conclusion

Often times, the fear of loss impedes the desire to gain. It misleads you from reaching the road of growth and success.

But losses turned into gains are a different thing. Present in a way that customers will feel like they can’t afford to lose you.

Practice the power of loss aversion to create a sense of urgency and make your sales pitch sound more persuasive!

 

References

Kay, Magda. “How to Use Cognitive Biases for Effective Marketing.” Psychology for Marketers. n.d. Accessed November 26, 2015. http://psychologyformarketers.com/use-cognitive-biases-effective-marketing

“Loss Aversion.” Behavioural Finance. n.d. Accessed November 26, 2015. http://loss-aversion.behaviouralfinance.net

Pammi, C. & Srinivasan N. (2013). Decision Making: Neural and Behavioural Approaches. Elsevier.

Popolskis, Alon. “How to Persuasively Leverage Loss Aversion for Your Company’s Gain.” Business to Community. December 30, 2015. Accessed November 26, 2015. www.business2community.com/strategy/persuasively-leverage-loss-aversion-companys-gain-0725284#uxhqSgb1Gx3YmeDf.97

Snider, Emma. “How to Use Psychological Biases to Sell Better and Faster.” Hubspot Blogs. January 31, 2015. Accessed November 26, 2015. http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/psychological-biases-sales

 

Featured Image: “Losses” by GotCredit on flickr.com

[Chinese New Year] Presentation Lessons from the Chinese Zodiac: The Monkey

In the Chinese lunar calendar, each year is represented by a Chinese zodiac animal sign. It’s believed that people born under each sign possess certain personal characteristics. This is a cycle that takes twelve years to repeat itself.

This 2016, we enter the Year of the Fire Monkey. According to San Francisco astrologist Susan Levitt, it’s the ninth animal sign in the Chinese zodiac. Characterized by traits such as curiosity, mischievousness, and cleverness, the monkey is a lively animal that’s known as a smart trickster.

At first, these may not sound like positive traits for an experienced and composed presenter. After all, monkeys may seem too hyperactive and troublesome for their own good. If we dig beneath the surface, however, there are quite a few things to learn from our roguish simian friends.

Let’s look at some Year of the Monkey tips that can help you dominate the presentation stage.

Communicate CuriosityCurious monkey hanging from a tree

People born in the Year of the Monkey are said to be curious and ambitious. They’re seen to have a great thirst for knowledge and often feel the need to try everything at once. However, this doesn’t mean you should start asking your audience personal questions, crossing the line from being professional to poking your nose into other people’s private lives.

Simply expressing curiosity towards your listeners can improve audience connection for business people and casual listeners alike. This can come in the form of challenging possibilities, displaying interest, and offering opinions. Give your audience the impression that you’re eager to know what problems are currently affecting them. Words like “I’d be very interested to know,” “How do you feel about,” and “From my point of view” are a few of the magic phrases that can put you and your audience on the same page.

Persuade them by showing them how curious and welcoming you are about taking their sides into consideration. By sharing your client’s concerns related to things like costs and implementation dates, you show that you’re willing to work with them as partners.

Expressing interest in your audience’s wants and needs makes them feel more valued. This makes it easier to connect with them for a more persuasive and engaging pitch.

Practice PlayfulnessMonkey playing while holding a banana

Our simian friends are also known for being mischievous. They love to play around and enjoy practical jokes, traits that are reflected in people born during the Year of the Monkey. However, said traits can be both good and bad, depending on how you approach them.

A little mischief can add a dose of fun to your presentation as long as you don’t overdo it. With people born under this sign, high energy can be a key to success but can likewise distract from main ideas during a presentation. It can be easy to enjoy yourself so much and accidentally go overboard with your delivery, causing your audience to forget about your main points.

Like with our previous tip, however, a restrained approach to playfulness can make for a more powerful delivery.

Sprinkling some humor onto your speech effectively engages and entertains people. It can also bring people back from the clutches of boredom, especially during highly technical discussions. With so much information consumed every day, an icebreaker can definitely make everyone chuckle or at least smile, giving them a quick breather from an otherwise straightforward and serious discussion.

One way to create a more cheerful atmosphere is to tell them a simple joke that can connect to your topic. Another way to break the ice is to quote a comical but appropriate line from a movie that fits your subject to lighten up the discussion and break the monotony. Just be wary of potentially offensive material that could undermine your credibility and tune out your listeners.

Play around with your use of language to vary up your speech and sound more interesting, such as by using metaphors, exaggerations, puns, and other figures of speech. A controlled approach to humor can help counterbalance the dull moments while still properly communicating your message, making your pitch even more memorable.

Convey ClevernessMonkey cleverly picked a banana from a tree

Aside from being charismatic and energetic, people born during the Year of the Monkey are also seen as inherently intellectual and creative. This isn’t all that surprising given that apes are our closest genetic relative in the animal kingdom, according to scientists.

To astrologers, people born under this zodiac are the most likely to be eccentric geniuses among the 12 animal signs. Their sparkling wit and sharp minds are the key qualities that make them a good leader. They know how to listen closely and work out solutions at the same time.

These attributes are hallmarks of successful people but also make for an effective speaker.

Be strong-willed, quick-witted, and opportunistic. Never make a move without an established plan. Instead, always come in prepared with a strategy to conquer. Prepare for your speech with the right amount of practice in front of close friends and confidants.

Don’t forget to double check your presentation deck for possible errors that may undermine your credibility. Also, be ready to spot and take advantage of opportunities that may come your way. Don’t rely too much on a preplanned structure and stay on your feet to improvise when needed.

Monkey Marketing MagicMonkey swinging in the tree with a banana on his hand

People born during the Year of the Monkey are believed to be curious, playful, and intelligent, but these positive traits aren’t exclusively theirs for acing that next speech. Here’s a quick wrap-up of the tips and tricks we’ve enumerated in this post:

1. Make your discussion open for everyone so you can gauge their expectations by expressing interest in their wants or needs. Share what you have in store for them and predict what they have in mind.

2. Sprinkle a little bit of fun in your speech. Using a lighthearted approach can equally increase engagement while complementing your message. Recite a funny line or a short joke to help with entertaining your audience.

3. A clever approach to all aspects of your presentation can increase your credibility, making you sound more knowledgeable and convincing in your field. Remain focused and prepared to be able to pounce on any opportunity that can arise from your speech.

Monkeys get a bad reputation, mostly seen by the public as badly behaved creatures, but some of their qualities can be harnessed into positive and productive skills that can bring success in the boardroom. It’s time to take some astrological cues and take this year by the reins with our matching presentation tips.

This 2016, use these monkey-inspired cues to imbue some extra marketing magic for your next pitch.

 

References:

Clark, Eugene. “Lessons for business in the Year of the Monkey.” China.org.cn. December 31, 2015. www.china.org.cn/opinion/2015-12/31/content_37424803.htm
Febrilian, Dio. “Asking about Possibilities, Expressing Curiosity and Desire, Expressing Views.” Dio Febrilian. n.d. www.diofebrilian.info/2012/12/asking-about-possibilities-expressing.html
Levitt, Susan. “2016 Fire Monkey Year.” Susan Levitt. October 1, 2013. www.susanlevitt.com/astrology/monkey-year-2016/
“Chinese Horoscope: The Monkey Sign (猴).” Scientific Psychic. n.d. www.scientificpsychic.com/fun/monkey-astrology.html

All the World’s a Stage: Presentation Lessons From Theater [Infographic]

Are you more interested in taking in information through visuals rather than through plain text? No worries. We’ve created an infographic about this topic for your viewing pleasure. Scroll down to the end of this post to see it in action!

Does the crowd seem not to pay too much attention while you’re presenting?

It might  be time to make a few adjustments to build connections and promote better engagement.

For one thing, using space matters a lot especially when giving any presentation.

The audience’s ability to understand your message depends not only on carrying out detailed information and visuals, but also on how you maximize your body movements.

Imagine yourself onstage, standing stiffly with your arms at your sides, without making any gestures at all. This inaction might be enough to convince the crowd that you’re not interested with what you’re doing.

Does the lectern hinder you from moving closer to your audience? Take that stand away and start engaging the audience!

Make Way for the Speaker

Words aren’t enough to encourage your audience to take action.

You might have prepared your PowerPoint deck to convey your idea, yet failing to back it up with the right body language can only undermine your entire performance.

Whether you’re in a large hall or in a boardroom, don’t stop yourself from moving around the podium to establish connections with your listeners.

Theater actors maximize their space when exchanging dialogue and interacting with the crowd because it can be effective in capturing audience’s attention and generating their interest.

No matter what the situation, content and delivery work hand in hand in getting your message across.

By actively matching your words with proper body movements and staying closer to your audience, you can make them feel comfortable, enough to give you their undivided attention.

Drop your fears and take the chance to use the stage to your advantage. Give up hiding behind a lectern and start wowing the crowd with convincing moves and assertive stances.

Here’s an infographic to help you learn the importance of space. It’s time to discover your greatest potential: to be the best performer onstage!

Share this infographic!

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Notes from TED: Presentation Tips from Memorable TED Talks

We’re big fans of TED Talks around here. Aside from getting to hear “ideas worth sharing,” the best TED Talks can also act as a crash course on presentation. If you’re looking to improve your presentation skills, TED.com is just a click away. You’re sure to find valuable lessons you can learn from.

With that, we decided to take a closer look at some of the most popular TED Talks to date. We picked out three from the venerable list and broke down their benefits and methods for you. In this process, we hope to point out the different takeaways that could help improve the next presentation you deliver.

Take a closer look at some of the most memorable TED Talks for valuable presentation lessons:

Ken Robinson on how to engage an audience in ‘How schools kill creativity’

Ken Robinson’s critique on today’s educational system is the most popular TED Talk, having over 30 million views. It’s no surprise that it’s a great study on how presenters can engage with their audience. Watch his delivery closely and see how the following points contribute to audience engagement:

1.) While the premise is presented straight away, Robinson was able to underline its importance with two stories that show the amazing creativity of children. The second story was even about his own son, which allowed the audience to see a part of him that they could easily relate to. He continued to share stories between discussions of his main arguments, allowing the audience to understand them better.

2.) He also encouraged audience engagement by posing rhetorical questions throughout his speech. By pausing every now and then to ask a question, he challenged his audience to think about the assertions he was making. They might not have had the chance to share their thoughts, but they were still actively participating by forming their own opinions.

3.) He made it easy for the audience to follow his presentation. His takeaways were always highlighted by transition phrases that prompt the audience to sit up and listen. By using phrases like “I think you’d have to conclude”, he made it clear that he was about to say something important.

Al Gore is clear and consistent in ‘Averting the global warming crisis’

The best thing about Al Gore’s TED Talk is his no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point delivery. While he made sure to engage the audience with humor and anecdotes, what really stands out is his ability to talk about a complex and often controversial topic.

1.) Gore didn’t spend much time with preludes and introductions. After gaining the audience’s attention, he plunged straight into the  discussion. This is something that’s important for business presentations. While it’s important to keep people engaged, you also need to make sure that your goals and purpose are clear to everyone.

2.) The structure he followed makes this easy. He introduced one point, gave an explanation, and offered an example. Through it all, he offered call-to-action statements that gave the audience a specific idea on how to contribute to his cause.

3.) Most importantly, he made use of visuals to elevate his message. His slides contained plenty of data that were simplified into charts to help the audience digest all the new information.

Elizabeth Gilbert is a powerful storyteller in ‘Your elusive creative genius’ 

In her TED Talk, best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert goes into the intricacies of living a creative life. To teach artists and writers like her to overcome the anxiety and apprehension they feel about their work, she starts by sharing stories. Observe how she carefully integrates storytelling to a cohesive presentation:

1.) She raised the emotional stakes by starting with personal anecdotes. To give the audience a chance to connect with her message, she made use of examples from her personal experience. She shared her own anxieties and positioned herself as someone who is relatable and personable.

2.) To highlight her points, she shared stories from other cultures and fellow writers. This allowed her audience to envision real people behind the concepts being discussed. To tie her entire presentation together, she then returned to her own experience and shared how she finally overcame the problem she initially presented.

3.) Even when she told a wide array of stories, none of these digressed from the core message of her presentation. In fact, it helped her message resonate throughout the presentation because these stories were perfectly in line with her original premise.

TED Talks can teach you insights from a wide-array of topics that can help improve your own work or career. They can also provide you a handful of important presentation tips and lessons. Whether you’re preparing for a sales pitch or a big conference, take note of these TED Talk lessons to successfully get your message across.

 

References

Hook, Line, and Sinker: What Makes a Great Presentation Story.” SlideGenius, Inc. December 11, 2014. Accessed February 16, 2015.
The Art of Graphs and Charts.” SlideGenius, Inc. April 21, 2014. Accessed February 17, 2015.
The most popular talks of all timeTED. Accessed February 17, 2015.
Presentation Tips: 5 Quick Steps to Audience Engagement.” SlideGenius, Inc. December 16, 2014. Accessed February 17, 2015.

 

Featured Image: Stefan Schäfer, Lich via Wikimedia Commons

Presentation Books: 5 Titles to Read During the Holidays

Even as you enjoy the parties and activities that come with the holidays, it’s important to give yourself a break. No matter how enjoyable, it can still be exhausting to be whisked away from one activity to the next. You also need to make sure you get some time to relax and recharge. The holiday break can be the perfect time to sit back and crack open a few presentation books. If you’re looking for titles that are refreshing and creative, these books can give you a new perspective on tired and cliched tips. Snuggle in your sofa with a book and a hot drink and give yourself the opportunity to feel inspired.

Here’s a list of presentation books you should read in-between your frantic holiday activities:

Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman)

51oXKWrcYYLWere the days leading up to your holiday break a stressful time at work? If so, reading Thinking Fast and Slow might help you come up with fresh ideas. In it, Daniel Kahneman, a winner of the Nobel Prize Memorial Award for Economics, introduces his readers to the different ways our brain works.

In particular, he explains that there are two different systems that drive the way we think. The first one is centered on intuition and emotion, while the second system focuses on deliberate and logical thinking. It’s the perfect read for anyone who wants to learn more about the decision-making process.

Confessions of a Public Speaker (Scott Berkun)

072-1Do you often find yourself feeling anxious about delivering a presentation? If you want to combat your presentation fears, you’ll definitely find comfort in the book Confessions of a Public Speaker. Here, the author Scott Berkun relays notable lessons from his years as a professional public speaker.

All of his tips are told through anecdotes that will definitely feel relatable. He shares both hits and misses, making the book a fun and humorous read. Among the presentation books in this list, this is the perfect choice for someone who’s looking to breeze through their holiday read.

The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand (Lee LeFever)

9781118374580_cover.inddHere’s a presentation book that’s perfect for those preparing for a big presentation. As you know, the success of your pitch will rely on how well you can explain the merits of your vision. To make sure you’re able to present your ideas well, Lee LeFever offers The Art of Explanation.

Take your audience through a journey and allow them to see the details of your idea clearly. Make sure your big idea is well-received by your prospects or colleagues by perfecting your communication techniques.

Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations (Dan Roam)

5140FskdsML._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Are you able to explain your ideas well, but don’t know how to convey them through visuals? If you think you’re not as adept in the design department, Dan Roam’s Show and Tell can be a great place to start. In here, you’ll be able to learn some of the basic lessons you need to ensure that you find the perfect balance between “showing” and “telling” in your presentations.

Engage your audience and make sure you give them an extraordinary and memorable experience.

The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking (Mike Rohde)

51PefxyjMIL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Do you have a hard time recalling information that’s been presented to you? The Sketchnote Handbook proves how important it is to incorporated visuals in presentations. While this is for the people sitting in the audience, it can also give presenters a fresh new perspective on the visualization of ideas.

Here, Mike Rohde makes it a point to each everyone that visual note taking isn’t exclusively for artists and creative types. According to him, all you really need is a pen, a notebook, and a lot of creativity.

Take a moment from your busy holiday schedule to find inspiration from these presentation books. Here are 5 titles you need to try before the year ends. Are there any other presentation books in your holiday reading list? What other titles would you like to try out?

 

Featured Image: picjumbo

How to Organize Your Ideas with a Presentation Storyboard

There are no shortcuts to delivering great presentations. You need ample time to plan your goals and prepare the message you want to deliver. Organize your ideas into a logical narrative by making a presentation storyboard.

Storyboarding is an essential step in filmmaking, and has been around for quite some time. It involves creating rough sketches that plot how a certain story will progress. Similarly, creating a presentation storyboard will allow you to visualize the flow of your presentation. Think of it as a visual outline, giving you a chance to step back and see your presentation as a whole.

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It’s the blueprint you’ll refer to when building your PowerPoint deck. Here’s how to get started:

Ask yourself, “what do I want to say?”

Create a presentation storyboard manually

Before you begin storyboarding, think of your core message first. What is the one thing you want your audience to take away from your presentation? If you were writing an essay for class, this would be your thesis statement.

Once decided, list all the key points surrounding your main message. Let your ideas flow organically and don’t try to edit yourself at this stage. Simply jot down everything that comes to mind. It’s better to do this away from your computer. Some believe that writing by hand helps the creative process.

Presentation storyboard: Turning your ideas into a narrative

Presentation storyboard using sticky notes

With your ideas on paper, you can now visualize and arrange them into a logical sequence. To start with your presentation storyboard, take a clean sheet of paper and start doodling. The general idea is to sketch your ideas into a series of panels. Each panel will serve as a single slide for your PowerPoint deck. You can divide a clean page into several sections or use several sticky notes. Create as much storyboard panels as you need. For collaborations, this is a great time to work out each other’s ideas.

Some practical tips: If you’re sketching on a single sheet, it’s better to use a pencil. You don’t want to make anything permanent at this stage. The whole point of a presentation storyboard is that you get to see how your ideas flow. You should be able to make adjustments if something doesn’t feel right. For this reason, sticky notes are a lot more convenient. Use one sheet as a single panel and stick it on a flat surface. When you’ve finished sketching and writing, you can easily rearrange the notes in any order you’d like.

Take a step back and look at the big picture

Complete presentation storyboard

After sketching out your ideas, you can now step back and review your presentation storyboard. Scrutinize how each panel is connected. Figure out if this sequence helps in building a logical narrative for your core message.

Does every panel contribute to the point you want to drive home? Are your points supporting the argument you’re trying to make? Be discerning and remove details that you don’t need. From this stage, you’ll come out with a blueprint to guide you with your PowerPoint deck.

When creating a storyboard, the most important thing to remember is to keep an open mind.

In summary, a presentation storyboard will help:

  • Turn your ideas into a logical and discernible narrative
  • Visualize how your key points can translate into a PowerPoint presentation

Let your thoughts flow out organically. Storyboarding allows you to swim through ideas and concepts until you find the ones that suit your message the most.

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Featured Image: Wander Lima via Flickr
Image Sources: (1) Eelke via Flickr; (2) Death to the Stock Photo; (3) Mike Sansone via Flickr 

Three Presentation Lessons from the Big Screen

Film is a powerful medium. We’ve all seen a movie that kept us at the edge of our seats long after the credits have rolled. Just like other methods of storytelling, it can offer audiences new information and fresh perspectives in a manner that’s engaging for them.

Now, why does that sound familiar? Because your presentations should do the same thing. Here are the top three presentation lessons you can learn from the big screen. Keep your audiences engaged and involved with a few key points.

Don’t be a Drag

The_Hobbit_-_The_Desolation_of_Smaug_theatrical_posterOne of the most important presentation lessons you need to learn is to be as concise as possible. Most movies run for a little less than two hours. In the same way, presentations vary in length, but it’s important that you keep it clear and straight to the point. Keep in mind your key points and main goals, then trim out the unnecessary details.

Take a lesson from the adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The adaptation is three movies long, while the source material is only a single, 310-page book. This leaves the director, some pretty big narrative spaces to fill.

In order to keep your presentation focused, start your preparation by asking yourself some important questions.

 

  • What is the purpose of your presentation? What do you want to achieve with the information you’re sharing?
  • What is your presentation truly about? What is the main message you want your audience to take away?

Upon answering these questions, you can begin drafting an outline of your presentation. You’ll have a framework to keep your PowerPoint deck from ballooning to, say, 50 slides.

Always give a fresh perspective

similar themes - presentation lessons

There are movies that have pretty formulaic plots. Despite that, some of them still go on to become big blockbuster hits. The themes that James Cameron tackles in the movie Avatar are similar to those in the timeless classics Pocahontas and Tarzan, However, because he gives the movie a sci-fi setting and interesting new characters, he was able to add something that audiences haven’t seen before.

The same should be true for your presentation. Even if you’re set to report about your company’s finances, there’s still a way to give new life to the same old presentations people are used to seeing. Keep your audience engaged with good content and interesting visuals. Add a bit of personality to your presentation with some anecdotes.

Use metaphors and analogies to explain concepts your audience unfamiliar with. You can even add humor, if the situation allows it. Lastly, show your audience a PowerPoint deck that’s more than just bullet points and bad clip art. Read up on some of our past presentation lessons on how you can give your audience a great experience.

Focus on delivery just as much as you focus on content

Troy2004PosterThere are some movies that suffer from sloppy editing. While the original premise and the plot may seem interesting, the technical side of the movie keeps it from clicking with viewers.

Similarly, your delivery can make or break your presentation. You can have the best PowerPoint deck, coupled with interesting content. But if you mumble through your presentation and just read your slides, the attention of your audience will wander.

Practice your body language to show that you are full of energy. You should also make sure your voice sounds equally alive and engaged. Break monotonous sentences with voice inflection.

Always know that there’s inspiration to be found everywhere when it comes to improving your presentation.

The next time you’re seeing a movie with friends, take note of some presentation lessons you can apply to the board room.

 

Featured Image: John Drake via Flickr

Occam’s Razor and Simplifying Presentation Content

The simplest explanation tends to be the correct one.

I’m sure it’s something you’ve heard before. It’s the phrase we know as Occam’s razor, a line of reasoning that guides scientists as they wade through questions and empirical data to arrive at a conclusion. Surprisingly, it’s something you can also apply to your presentation content.

Less is More

When your presentation involves a complex topic, how do you make sure your message is received properly? How can you guarantee that your audience can remember the details beneath the tables and line graphs? The answer depends on the two principles that formed the basis of Occam’s razor:

  • Principle of Plurality: “Plurality should not be posited without necessity”
  • Principle of Parsimony: “It’s pointless to do with more what is done with less”

Basically, your presentation content should follow the idea that “less is more.” When you’re presenting complex information, it’s better to keep your explanation brief and straight to the point. It’s your task to relay knowledge to your audience and a lot could get lost in between unnecessary details and complications. The fewer words it takes, the better.

Simplicity in Complex Details

Presentation content - Einstein quote
Wikimedia Commons

Albert Einstein is often credited for saying, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Before you begin working on your presentation, ask yourself how much of your subject matter do you truly understand.

In the business setting, presentations are mostly collaborative. It’s likely that the data you have was compiled by someone else. Take the time to review the materials and peruse every detail. If you can, reach out to other people who can help you. There’s no shame in asking questions that may seem obvious.

Simplifying your presentation content actually involves a lot more preparation. It takes no time to paste data from an Excel file, but it takes effort to discern which parts are the most important to your presentation’s goal. There’s no way to know what to exclude unless you understand every detail.

Analogies and Metaphors

Presentation content - baseball
Wikimedia Commons

We often use different analogies and metaphors to make sense of new information. Just think about the idiomatic expressions we use in everyday conversations. Why not do the same with your presentation content?

Consider how your subject matter relates to concrete objects or situations. After you’ve laid out the information, think of similarities it has with things your audience will be familiar with. For example, if you’re trying to explain how a certain software works, you can liken each step to the rules of baseball.

Another example was provided by Christopher Bingham and Steven Kahl. They wrote about how Apple introduced the first Macintosh computer operating system:

 “When users booted up their computer, the screen they stared into was called a desktop, with small icons labeled ‘trashcan’ and ‘files.’ It was really not a desktop in the physical sense, but Apple was helping people transition from what was familiar to them in the physical world to what was new in the digital world.”

Consider that analogies and metaphors usually involve symbolism and imagery. Give them more impact by complementing your presentation content with illustrations.

Consult with a professional PowerPoint designer. A presentation deck is a visual aid. Use it as another vehicle to explain and simplify your presentation content.

 

 

References

Bingham, Christopher B., and Steven J. Kahl. “How to Use Analogies to Introduce New Ideas.” MIT Sloan Management Review. 2013. Accessed July 31, 2014.
Clark, Josh. “How Occam’s Razor Works.” HowStuffWorks. Accessed July 31, 2014.
Determining the Goal of Your Presentation Is Hard.” Think Outside The Slide. September 18, 2012. Accessed July 31, 2014.

 

Featured Image: fdecomite via Flickr

What You Can Learn from TV Shows about Presentation Structure

Like films, television shows are well-known narrative devices that plenty of people subscribe to. In a more formal setting, presentations also share the need to relay its own core message through corporate storytelling, which engages the listener emotionally and physically.

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There’s a lot you can learn about presentation structure just by observing how your favorite TV series play out. A great episode follows a focused structure that constantly keeps the audience engaged. There’s a logical sequence to how each event leads to the resolution of a specific conflict. While your presentations might not be in the same line as a procedural show, having a straightforward presentation structure is still good advice.

According to communications expert Nick Morgan, presentation structure may vary depending on the specifics of the message you’re delivering. However, it should always maintain a logical and orderly progression from one point to another. Your audience will feel lost otherwise.

Have you ever finished watching a TV episode that left you confused about what happened? That’s similar to how audiences feel when they walk out of a presentation that didn’t follow proper structure.

Try these three easy tips to make sure your presentation structure sends the message loud and clear:

1. Define your premise

presentation structure tv show houseMost episodes of the medical drama House start by showing how a patient is first attacked by a mysterious disease that the main characters will later have to diagnose. It is able to portray a sense of urgency that keeps viewers interested to see how the rest of the episode will play out.

The same thing should be said about your presentation structure. In order to create the same effect, you need to start by clearly defining the premise and parameters of your presentation. This helps your audience know what to expect from your presentation. But while “Good morning, today we’re going to discuss X and how it affects Y and Z” is definitely clear, it sounds too stiff and typical. Try to entice their interest by using more creative methods, like posing a rhetorical question or providing a shocking fact or statistic.

2. Create conflict with a satisfying resolution

presentation structure tv show law and orderThe long-running procedural Law & Order follows a very specific structure in its episodes. After the police discover a crime scene, detectives set out to solve the mystery behind it. Later on, usually during the second half of the episode, prosecutors take the case to court.

In every episode, the viewers hope to see justice prevail. The show takes them there through a progression of scenes that slowly reveal the truth about the crime that was committed.

In the same way, each part of your presentation should be arranged in a way that answers or resolves your main query.  All great stories need some sort of conflict to push the action forward. While your presentation won’t necessarily be about the battle between good and evil, it should be able to provide a solution to a specific problem. As you prepare your presentation, think about what you want your audience to remember. The main takeaway is the resolution of your presentation. The conflict is the current problem or issue that your main idea will address. Your presentation structure should take the audience from conflict to resolution in a progression of slides that offer details and information.

3. Leave them wanting more

presentation structure tv show house of cardsWhat compels you to watch episode after episode of House of Cards on Netflix? While a good episode can produce tension with an interesting point of conflict, it should also be able to urge viewers to ask, “What happens next?”

Similarly, you’ll know you’ve done your job as a presenter if you can move your audience into taking action. To do that, you need to end your presentation with as much strength as you started. End your presentation structure with a clear and specific call to action. It should leave your audience curious to learn more about the product you’re selling or the project you’re proposing. Think of it as your presentation’s cliff hanger. It’s the last statement you make to get your audience on your side.

Good ideas become great once they’re arranged in a logical and discernible sequence. Allow your message to stand out by following a straightforward presentation structure that your audience can easily follow.

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Featured Image: Chris Brown via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
All TV title cards from Wikimedia Commons

Get to the Point: What You Need to Cut from Your Presentation Delivery

An effective presentation has a clear and definite message. Whether you’re aiming to inform, pitch, or promote, the message should ring true in both your design and content. More than that, it should also be emphasized through great presentation delivery.

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In delivering your pitch, the main goal is to communicate your key message in the best possible way. Length doesn’t always mean quality. In fact, compact content—that is, a short but informative delivery—is more likely to stick to the audience than a rambling speech.

Because our minds are attuned to process information in bits and not in chunks, clarity usually comes from being brief and straight to the point. Review your presentation notes and omit things that are clouding your message. And then work on cutting out the following things from your presentation delivery:

1. Long-winded introductions

Here’s a familiar scenario: “Hi everyone! It’s John Doe from the Marketing team. Thanks for sharing your time with me. I promise it will only take 30 minutes. I’m here to give you a brief report about Project A. It’s something that we’ve worked hard on, and we’re all excited to share this with you. So I’ll give you a quick overview and outline our progress and if we still have time left, you can ask me questions or give your feedback. There’s a bit of information to cover, but I tried to condense it as much as possible into a few slides. Oh, and if you want a copy of the slides, just approach me after the presentation and I’ll email it to you. So anyway, to start it off…”

Never start with an introduction that is so long and inconsequential.  You’re sure to lose your audience’s interest at the get go. Don’t waste the crucial first few minutes of your presentation explaining things that are completely unrelated to your discussion.

There are only three things your audience needs to know the minute you start your presentation. Our hypothetical but scarily accurate example can be trimmed to a few short sentences by answering these questions:

  • Who is presenting?
  • What is the presentation about?
  • Why is it relevant to the audience?

2.  Awkward icebreakers

There’s nothing wrong with using an icebreaker to engage and build rapport with your audience.

The beginning of your presentation is a crucial time. Anything that can help you connect with your audience is helpful. That said, some techniques are still better than others.

Don’t attempt an ice breaker that you can’t tie back to the message of your presentation. Don’t waste time picking the audience’s brain with games if it doesn’t help introduce your topic. And while we’re on the subject, don’t make them play along something too complicated and will take up too much time explaining.

An example of an effective presentation icebreaker is still a good story. Presentations work when they make an emotional connection. While jokes and games are entertaining, sharing an anecdote that’s related to your topic will give your core message a relatable human dimension.

3. “Um…” and other fillers

Most of us say filler words out of habit. There’s nothing wrong with saying “um,” “like,” and “you know” in a casual setting. It’s something most people do unconsciously when formulating their thoughts. But presentations are a different case. When you’re presenting to an audience, you’re the one in charge. Saying “um” every time you pause makes you look like you’re not sure of what you’re saying. It’ll make your audience lose confidence in you.

Avoid filler words by rehearsing your presentation delivery. Teach yourself to pause when you catch yourself blurting out a filler word. After some time, you’ll find yourself more used to pausing than resorting to the usual verbal blunders.

If you’re nervous about presenting in front of an audience, click here for tips on fighting public speaking anxiety.

4. Self-affirming questions

While you should definitely make it a point to acknowledge your audience throughout your delivery, it’s unnecessary to ask them questions that only affirm you. Think back to your experience as an audience member, has a presenter actually ever stopped to hear your answer when they ask, “Are you with me?”

The only questions you should be asking your audience ones where their answer is relevant to your presentation. If, for example, you want to gauge how they feel about the topic at hand, ask them by a show of hands. If you’re presenting to a smaller group, you can set a brief portion of your presentation and have select audience members share their answers.

5. “Next slide, please”

Don’t break the immersion of your audience by uttering the words “next slide, please.” If you can’t have your laptop near you to advance slides yourself, use a remote control instead. There are plenty of devices that allow you to control your PowerPoint deck from a distance, and they’re a great investment.

Presentation expert Garr Reynolds suggests the brands Keyspan and Interlink. According to TechRepulic‘s Deb Shinder, if that’s too much of a splurge, you can download apps that allow you to use your smartphone as a remote control.

Remember that the success of  your presentation lies on three things: content, design, and delivery. If one of these aspects fall flat, the rest of your presentation will suffer. Create an engaging experience for your audience by cutting out unnecessary details from your presentation delivery.

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