If you want to be a good presenter – if you want your ideas to take hold – then you need to remember one thing: Make. It. Sticky.
So far, we’ve been talking about structure, headlines and language. Now we’re going to talk about how to ensure your content packs a punch – that it makes people sit up and take notice, persuades them to act, and stays with them well after the applause dies down.
To help you achieve all this, we’re just going to tell you to read one VIB (Very Important Book) called, “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip & Dan Heath.
This is the book that will make sure that you are as effective as possible in your communications, whether you’re presenting, pitching, brainstorming in a meeting, or just writing an email. Time Magazine summarised it best when they described it a must-read “for anyone with good ideas who wants to capture an audience.”
Made to Stick keeps it super simple (one of their big mantras). They advocate that while your content is obviously important, if you don’t package that idea/solution/provocation in the right way, then you’re nowhere, regardless of how great an idea it is. Note that we are talking beyond just the delivery of your presentation – we’re talking about the entire package!
Made to Stick has a handy acronym to help remember their main strategies on how to make your ideas stickier: SUCCES (without the final ‘s’). Let’s hash it out:
You’ve heard us say this over and over again, but we can’t repeat it enough. You need to keep it simple. It takes more effort and intellect to avoid being complex. Simple doesn’t mean dumbing it down or talking in sound bites; it means finding the core of the idea. In presentations, it’s about prioritising and being a master of exclusion. Decide what’s in and cut what’s out. As the Heath brothers wrote, “If you say three things, you don’t say anything.”
The hardest thing to do in any presentation is grabbing someone’s attention and then keeping their attention. Using the element of surprise can help to get someone’s attention – surprise people with a lesser-known fun fact or throw in an unexpected physical challenge. You’ve shaken their expectations of “another boring presentation” and hopefully piqued their interest. To keep their attention, that’s when you need to deploy the gap theory of curiosity. It’s essentially the same as reading a mystery novel – the classic whodunit. By seeding clues to a big reveal, you will be able to capture people’s attention for the entire ride.
Make sure the ideas or provocations in your presentation are described in a tangible way so that they’re easy for people to grasp. The opposite of concrete is “abstract”, which is the worse type of presentation you can sit through. Concrete language helps people, especially novices, understand new concepts. Explain things in terms of relatable references, like when you first learned maths, and your teacher spoke to you in relatable terms, such as, “I have 10 marbles and lose 4. How many do I have left?” instead of just asking you what is 10 minus 4.
Support an idea with proof and make it believable. That’s why you see so many advertisements supported by recognised institutions or are in partnership with an expert or a celebrity. That’s why since the dawn of marketing, word of mouth was the most powerful weapon in a marketer’s arsenal, and today, the use of influencers and reviews is so heavily relied on. If you don’t have the benefit of external credibility, then internal credibility can help which relies on the power of detail. Wouldn’t you believe a witness who could easily describe the colour of the car and how fast the driver was going compared to someone else’s story that was too vague?
Make people feel something. Make them laugh, make them cry, make them hurt, make them angry – just make them feel. We all know that the power of emotion in storytelling is basically the Number 1 rule. However, being emotive is about making it relatable. Research shows that people are more likely to make a charitable donation to a single impoverish individual than to an entire country. Mother Theresa once said, “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”
A credible idea makes people believe. An emotional idea makes people care. The right story can make people act. By telling stories, you are taking people on a journey that they can follow, simulating the story in their own heads and preparing them to respond more quickly and effectively. A story is also very sticky, compared to throwing a load of disconnected points at someone. We talk about how to tell your story at Step 1, which you can read here.
So, if you can try and apply some if not all of the SUCCES tips, we practically guarantee you will leave an indelible mark on the minds of your audience. You (or your ideas) will stick. Remember, stickiness goes beyond content and delivery. It’s about the entire packaging of your presentation. Remember these strategies and you are on your way to becoming the best presenter on the block.
Once you’ve read the book and want a handy prompt, download this handy one-pager from the Heath Brothers’ site.
Read on for the final step in our five-step series on how to create better, more effective presentations: Step 5. Know your audience and deliver your presentation accordingly.
About the book: Since its release in 2007, Made to Stick has made the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists and was retired from the BusinessWeek list after a 24-month run. It was named to several “best of the year” lists and was selected as one of the best 100 business books of all time.