Why & How Extreme Presentation Works

My friend, Professor Andrew Abela at Catholic University recently published The Presentation: A Story About Communicating Successfully With Very Few Slides,  which provides a case study example of executing the Extreme Presentation methods he details in his first book, Advanced Presentations Design: Creating Communication That Drives Action. His one-day workshop in 2006 was the best I’ve ever attended at a SCIP annual conference, so in the spirit of cooperative intelligence here are some highlights.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “That was a great presentation: could you have used more slides?” Of course not! Most people use slides to help themselves remember the material they are presenting, but they are not usually created to help you the audience understand the material or be convinced of what the presenter might be selling. This is a blind spot of many presenters and missed opportunity to sell an idea, close the sale or persuade someone or a group to take action! All these slides do is put most viewers into the passive viewing mode, which isn’t usually what you want!

The book focuses on Conference Room style presentation–that is the art of presenting persuasively to small groups. The objective of this venue is often to persuade a small group or a key individual to do or to agree to a specific thing.

To get started think, “What do you want your audience to do as a result of what you’ll be presenting to them?” Next: “Where is your audience right now?” So: “What evidence do you need to provide to your audience to get them to where you want them to be? This is the core of why Extreme Presentation works. You know at the outset where you want this presentation to end: what decision you want your audience to make. You present to your audience using persuasive, calculated steps to get to your endpoint.

Clearly identify what problem your audience has that your presentation will help solve. Research tells us that storytelling works since it’s causal information, not just mere facts, that makes your story more credible. Provide a compelling story about how this problem has been solved or can be solved. Find one or two stories to drive home your most important points.

Here is an example of how Extreme Presentation works with small audiences:

Situation: Most presentations don’t convince the audience and aren’t actionable

Complications: The presentation is agenda oriented, not objective oriented. There are too many slides which don’t encourage audience participation or engagement.

Resolution: 1 – 2 pages tell your story as a handout using your audience’s language + visual process “squint test”. Research shows that people need the right amount of detail and no distractions (no clip art) to promote the healthy discussion that is required to make decisions.

Example: This format encourages your audience to listen, absorb and engage, and leads them to make a decision, which is what you want! This method has been pilot tested extensively for at least 5 years by some big name companies such as ExxonMobil, Kimberly-Clark, Microsoft, eBay, Motorola, Xerox, WW Grainger and HJ Heinz to name a few!

The “squint test” initially confuses people, but it’s valuable for you to give the audience a shape which indicates the content of what you’ll cover such as a bar chart, process chart, organization chart, since you provide a handouts. Here are some templates to help you pass the squint test:

Extreme Presentation website www.ExtremePresentation.com/books/pres; SmartArt in PowerPoint and PowerFrameworks http://www.powerframeworks.com for thousands of templates.

I always like an example of what people are trying to communicate: below is the link to a 1 page handout which visually depicts what I just wrote about. I applaud Dr. Abela! The only thing I would have done differently is rename “extreme presentation”, “persuasive presentation,” since that’s really what it is: PERSUASIVE communication!

Persuasive Presentation Works

Be Competitive! 22 Tips to Kick Start Your Marketing

Yesterday I attended this most informative AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals) Webinar by Mary Ellen Bates, CEO of Bates Information. I have been in business for 17 years, but lack Mary Ellen’s business acumen and marketing focus. BTW these webinars are an additional benefit that AIIP did not offer when I first joined 5 years ago. How many associations offer more services for their members these days than they did previously? Since all webinars are recorded, AIIP members can listen to them anytime. Join AIIP here.

The tippers Mary Ellen shared are helpful for anyone who runs a business, not just information professionals, researchers or competitive intelligence managers. In the spirit of cooperative intelligence I will share a few of her best marketing practices.

Use the telephone and snail mail more, since email is an overused form of communication these days, and many emails are not opened. Even if you call a former customer and just get their voicemail, hearing your voice versus the digital word is a great reminder.

Review your client list annually and assess the quality of your clients. This process will help you plan for the upcoming year and figure out ways you can help clients improve their competitiveness. An informational interview is a great way to learn about a new industry to ultimately target. Ask good questions about how they make strategic decisions, and don’t promote yourself in these calls.

At the conclusion of a project that you know you delivered well, discretely ask for a referral. This is also a good time to ask for a LinkedIn recommendation in my opinion if your project deliverable was not top secret.

Connect with all your clients and prospects through social media: not just LinkedIn, but also Twitter, Facebook, industry Nings and blogs. Comment on blogs. Interaction is the key to develop social networks.

Identify client topics of interest and offer products accordingly. You might interview 5 people and write up a white paper that addresses a topic of interest or industry pain points.

A very practical tipper: give yourself one full day to update all your social network, blog, and other membership profiles. Do they jive and connect with each other?

Mary Ellen suggests many ways you can connect in writing whether digitally or in hardcopy: birthday cards, holiday cards, articles, blogs, Tweets, newsletters, thank you notes: be creative! If you use snail mail, it’s more likely to be opened than email.

Personally I like to create unique marketing to clients and prospects: I snail mail New Year’s cards designed by my husband, Rodgers Naylor with one of his original paintings on the front. Some people have kept our cards, and even framed them, over the years. These cards benefit both of our unrelated businesses!

To learn more, I recommend that you buy the recently published second edition of Mary Ellen’s book, Building and Running a Successful Research Business: A Guide for the Independent Information Professional.

Do You Question Your Assumptions?

How often do you read articles from the same sources and continue practices that you are comfortable with—without questioning your assumptions? I focus on research, competitive intelligence and cooperative intelligence and found “Think the Answer’s Clear: Look Again” a recent NY Times article a great example of questioning your assumptions.  Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a physician researcher published a study in 1997 in the New England Journal of Medicine which concluded that driving while talking on a cellphone was as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. While commonly believed today, this was news in 1997!

Dr. Redelmeier has conducted several studies around behaviors while driving since he believes “Life is a marathon, not a sprint,” and “A great deal of mischief occurs when people are in a rush.” One of my favorites is around the psychology of changing lanes in traffic. “You think more cars are passing you when you’re actually passing them just as quickly. Still, you make a lane change where the benefits are illusory and not real.” Meanwhile, changing lanes increases the likelihood of a collision about threefold!

Dr. Redelmeier says it so nicely, “Do not get trapped into prior thoughts. It’s perfectly OK to change your mind as you learn more.” He extends this belief not only across his research quests and findings, but also in his practice as a doctor. He is more likely to intercept diagnosis and treatment errors at an earlier stage since he is willing to change based on new information. I want to be treated by a doctor like Dr. Redelmeier.

Dr. Redelmeiers’ practices can be adopted by competitive intelligence and research professionals. He is a critical thinker who observes behaviors, questions them and conducts research which proves or disproves his beliefs. He has learned that so many accidents in life happen when people are in a hurry. This is true in competitive intelligence research as well as most business functions. We are in too much of a hurry to produce our work, and the quality suffers. We don’t learn from our mistakes since we’re too busy and onto the next project.

In “One Upping the Competition,” Ken Sawka suggests that companies also focus on post-strategy early warning. In simple terms, it’s recognizing the patterns of what a competitor might be planning based on their actions in real-time, and changing your strategy and tactics based on these observations. Does your company recognize the pattern changes of your competitors and your marketplace? Or are you too impatient and insular to do this? Once you recognize pattern changes, is your leadership nimble enough to change your behavior in time?

If you want to stay in business for the long haul, you need to be observant about your marketplace, question your assumptions, and be willing to make changes based on what you learn in time!

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