Just the Jobs
I joined a great webinar recently - ‘The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How Apple Changed What Your Audience Expects’, which was hosted by author and professor of perfect presentations, Carmine Gallo (have a read of his latest bestseller ‘The Storyteller’s Secret’).
tHE power of 3
Gallo is an apostle of the Power of 3, which goes all the way back to Aristotle, the father of persuasive thought. The Power of 3 refers to the idea that the average human being, of which I am one, can only process up to three bits of new information at any one time (unlike my teenage sons who seem incapable of processing even one simple instruction that does not involve PS4). Gallo suggests every presentation should be founded on three key pillars – be passionate about your subject, introduce a novel idea or thought, be memorable. As a presentation skills trainer I can really understand this concept because the key to great public speaking is keep it simple – and that means the number of ideas you are presenting and the language you use.
Gallo says one of the best tools we have – in fact in my view the best tool we have – when communicating in any form is storytelling. We have been doing it for thousands of years since man first sat round a camp fire and said ‘Hey this meat tastes so much better roasted’. The marketing industry has reinvented storytelling as ‘content marketing’, but it’s not new. What is new is we are re-acquainting ourselves with the instinctive skill we have forgotten. Every great story is based on one basic abstract idea - love, death, conflict - which is brought to life through highly visual description. Presentations are just stories - they might not be works of literary genius but they are stories nonetheless and if you tell them with passion, your audience will have more faith in what you are telling them.
Being passionate doesn’t come easily to many, especially if they are talking about a relatively dry subject, but it’s vital for engaging with people and encouraging them to react positively to what’s being said. In our presentation sessions we act out the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill with attendees playing different characters in the story (we even give them props). The point is to make them see a very familiar text from an unusual viewpoint and to make them tell the story afresh.
When presenting I believe it is always best to have just ONE idea, however tempting it is to share all of your product or service messages in one go, because it is far easier to stay on topic. Whatever that idea is, you have to tell a compelling story about it – the one tale that you can tell over and over with absolute passion and confidence, and which is likely to resonate with and be repeated by your audience.
So how do you make it compelling? The second stage of Gallo’s approach is to be novel. Do something that makes your audience sit up and take notice. Bill Gates unleashed a swarm of mosquitoes at the start of his TED talk in 2009 to highlight the importance of investing in malaria prevention, something which is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. You have to be extraordinary to be effective: I once dressed up in safari gear to address a roomful of business people about the need to provide a point of focus during a presentation. I started by pulling a small wicker box out of my bag, which had some leaves poking out of it. ‘In here,’ I told them, ‘is a rare, small but highly venomous African spider’ and left them to wonder at what point the insect would be brought into play. It worked: at the end of my talk a woman came up to me and said she had listened to every word, so could she see the spider.
Finally, be memorable. Gallo doesn’t mean make yourself memorable, but your message. Create an idea that could become a Twitter headline. People retain only about 10% of what they hear, and up to 65% of what they see, even if it is only in their mind's eye. Famously, when Steve Jobs introduced a new generation iPod, rather than say it had 5GB of storage he described it as '1,000 songs in your pocket'. Apple has become a master of ‘presentertainment’; the Apple Watch was introduced as ‘the most personal device we have ever created’, the MacBook Air is the ‘world’s thinnest notebook’, the new iPad is ‘thinner than a pencil’. So what can seem dull or technical can be made exciting and relevant by painting a picture of the benefits in the listener’s mind: they have to be able to see its value.
So the next time you have to give a presentation, whether it’s to two people or 2,000, or if you have to give a media interview, or if you just need to convince your colleagues your idea is jolly good, stop and think: how can you distil the information into one killer headline? What story can you tell that will help them visualise your message? Remember the golden rule - to get your audience excited about a product or idea you have to be excited too because enthusiasm is infectious.
And if you want to read Carmine Gallo's book it is available here
Allan Watts heads up our PR and Training services. To start mastering your presentation skills and build your confidence infront of an audience or a journalist, give him a call today to find out more.