If you had an hour with your team or your boss or a prospect, how many things would you tell them?
Do you have a laundry list of ten or twenty or fifty ideas you want to share? Six things you want them to do? A dozen changes that are important?
One reason that blog posts have become such a powerful way to spread ideas is that a typical blog post is about just one thing. One.
Why not give that a try? Use your time, all your time, to sell just one thing. Go deep. Sell. Then stop.
This is the bad science on the back of a package of Pomodoro pasta. Marketers have nightmares about this… about screwing up and having it show up on a million packages. "Boy are you stupid."
What a wasted nightmare.
Instead of spending all her time worrying about making a silly mistake (Mars isn’t the closest, it’s Mercury, guys), perhaps she could worry about playing it safe too often, about becoming irrelevant, about pushing so hard to create average pasta for average people that she ends up selling a commodity. Now that’s a nightmare. (thanks, Mark, for the link.) People don’t get laid off for messing up the planets. They lose their jobs because of boring marketing.
I absolutely adore this photo from the Times. Not one smile in the bunch, never mind ebullience, mania or even pleasant anticipation.
Just because a marketer says something is amazing, exciting or just plain wow doesn’t mean it is.
I wrote this about four years ago, originally as an ebook. I figured the idea might spread and then the problem would go away–we’d no longer see thousands of hours wasted, every single day, by boring PowerPoint presentations filled with bullets.
Not only has it not gone away, it’s gotten a lot worse. Last week I got a template from a conference organizer. It seems they want every single presenter to not only use bullets for their presentations, but for all of us to use the same format! Shudder.
So, for posterity, and in the vain hope it might work, here we go again:
Really Bad Powerpoint
It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to champion at a church or a school or a Fortune 100 company, you’re probably going to use PowerPoint.
Powerpoint was developed by engineers as a tool to help them communicate with the marketing department—and vice versa. It’s a remarkable tool because it allows very dense verbal communication. Yes, you could send a memo, but no one reads anymore. As our companies are getting faster and faster, we need a way to communicate ideas from one group to another. Enter Powerpoint.
Powerpoint could be the most powerful tool on your computer. But it’s not. Countless innovations fail because their champions use PowerPoint the way Microsoft wants them to, instead of the right way.
Communication is the transfer of emotion.
Communication is about getting others to adopt your point of view, to help them understand why you’re excited (or sad, or optimistic or whatever else you are.)If all you want to do is create a file of facts and figures, then cancel the meeting and send in a report.
Our brains have two sides. The right side is emotional, musical and moody. The left side is focused on dexterity, facts and hard data. When you show up to give a presentation, people want to use both parts of their brain. So they use the right side to judge the way you talk, the way you dress and your body language. Often, people come to a conclusion about your presentation by the time you’re on the second slide. After that, it’s often too late for your bullet points to do you much good.
You can wreck a communication process with lousy logic or unsupported facts, but you can’t complete it without emotion. Logic is not enough.
Champions must sell—to internal audiences and to the outside world.
If everyone in the room agreed with you, you wouldn’t need to do a presentation, would you? You could save a lot of time by printing out a one-page project report and delivering it to each person. No, the reason we do presentations is to make a point, to sell one or more ideas.
If you believe in your idea, sell it. Make your point as hard as you can and get what you came for. Your audience will thank you for it, because deep down, we all want to be sold.
Four Components To A Great Presentation
First, make yourself cue cards. Don’t put them on the screen. Put them in your hand. Now, you can use the cue cards you made to make sure you’re saying what you came to say.
Second, make slides that reinforce your words, not repeat them. Create slides that demonstrate, with emotional proof, that what you’re saying is true not just accurate.
Talking about pollution in Houston? Instead of giving me four bullet points of EPA data, why not read me the stats but show me a photo of a bunch of dead birds, some smog and even a diseased lung? This is cheating! It’s unfair! It works.
Third, create a written document. A leave-behind. Put in as many footnotes or details as you like. Then, when you start your presentation, tell the audience that you’re going to give them all the details of your presentation after it’s over, and they don’t have to write down everything you say. Remember, the presentation is to make an emotional sale. The document is the proof that helps the intellectuals in your audience accept the idea that you’ve sold them on emotionally.
IMPORTANT: Don’t hand out the written stuff at the beginning! If you do, people will read the memo while you’re talking and ignore you. Instead, your goal is to get them to sit back, trust you and take in the emotional and intellectual points of your presentation.
Fourth, create a feedback cycle. If your presentation is for a project approval, hand people a project approval form and get them to approve it, so there’s no ambiguity at all about what you’ve all agreed to.
The reason you give a presentation is to make a sale. So make it. Don’t leave without a “yes,” or at the very least, a commitment to a date or to future deliverables.
Bullets Are For the NRA
Here are the five rules you need to remember to create amazing Powerpoint presentations:
- No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.
- No cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images.
- No dissolves, spins or other transitions.
- Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never use the sound effects that are built in to the program. Instead, rip sounds and music from CDs and leverage the Proustian effect this can have. If people start bouncing up and down to the Grateful Dead, you’ve kept them from falling asleep, and you’ve reminded them that this isn’t a typical meeting you’re running.
- Don’t hand out print-outs of your slides. They don’t work without you there.
The home run is easy to describe: You put up a slide. It triggers an emotional reaction in the audience. They sit up and want to know what you’re going to say that fits in with that image. Then, if you do it right, every time they think of what you said, they’ll see the image (and vice versa).1
Sure, this is different from the way everyone else does it. But everyone else is busy defending the status quo (which is easy) and you’re busy championing brave new innovations, which is difficult.
Ed shares this story with us, via a friend of Pablo Picasso.
I was staying with Picasso in his studio. Every day, dealers would come by to authenticate paintings they were trying to sell… they would ask the painter if the painting was real or a fake.
A dealer came by one day, Picasso glanced at it and without hesitating said, "fake." Later that day, two more were identified as fakes.
The second day, a different dealer came by. Picasso hardly looked up. "Fake!" he bellowed.
After the dealer left, I couldn’t help myself. "Picasso, why did you say that painting was a fake? I was here, in this studio, last year when I saw you paint it."
Picasso didn’t hesitate. He turned to me and said, "I often paint fakes."
Not quite a hierarchy of needs, here’s are four kinds of marketing effort, and they make up a cycle.
This is the website that’s not designed or promoted. It’s the non-profit that doesn’t have a development officer or the local stationery store that buys the cheapest sign they can find and it says "stationary." This is the hobbyist blog about my ferret or the nervous entrepreneur who spends months designing a business card so she’ll never have to actually go on a sales call. I’m always surprised when I see good work that has no effort put into its marketing, because marketing doesn’t require cash… just belief and effort. And if it’s worth building, it’s probably worth marketing.
This category sort of matches the idea of the child that is too simple to even ask a question.
Here you’ll find a website that is easy to use and builds a permission asset. One that buys AdWords and tests them. You’ll discover a non-profit that has figured out how to write grant proposals that actually get funded. Or a blogger who writes with aplomb and knows how to promote his work.
This is the restaurant with convenient hours or the airline with a frequent flyer program.
Marketers spend much of their time focusing on this sort of effort and how to make it more effective. In fact, it might be your day job.
Too Much Effort
It’s in the eye of the beholder of course, but there are certainly marketers who try too hard. They buttonhole innocent bystanders at trade shows, they have websites filled with popups, popunders, audio riffs and toll free numbers repeated over and over again. They spam people. One reason that many people have dismissed MultiLevel Marketing is because of a bad experience with someone who tried too hard. And we all know about particularly obnoxious non-profits that tried just a little too hard to convert us or raise money.
No (Apparent) Effort
The last level is awfully similar to the first one. That’s the marketer who doesn’t appear to try. The speaker who doesn’t solicit engagements, or the consulting firm that doesn’t have (or need) a salesforce. This is the one that is fascinating and overlooked.
It takes confidence to market with No (Apparent) Effort. It’s a zen thing, and it’s attractive to many people because of the power it projects. We’re drawn to someone who doesn’t try too hard, who is booked enough to not need a booking. When Miles Davis performed with his back to the audience, some people were offended. Others were entranced by his cool.
Graydon Carter just opened a restaurant in New York. No photos of the dining room, not even for the Times. The word PREVIEW on every page of the menu. He’s trying so hard not to try, it shows.
There’s a market distinction here. Some people will buy from a gas station with no marketing because the station is in the right place at the right time. Many people will buy from someone who does marketing the right way and presses the right buttons. And yes, there are a few people who buy things from spam email or from obnoxious websites.
There are many markets, though, where no (apparent) marketing is exactly what the prospect wants. Especially in business to business sales, or in certain media pitches, the less you try, the better you do. As this has become clear, businesses are getting better at marketing without marketing, at trying without (appearing to) try.
Please don’t blog this. It’s a preview.
Jake points us to The Long Tail: Long Tail PR: how to do publicity without a press release (or the press).
At the same time, Frank wonders if internal training is overrated, and whether all internal focused communication ought to be aimed at prospects and consumers instead.
Both are riffing on the idea that one of the most important assets of a big company is that… it’s big. It has its own long tail inside.
Instead of having one book publicist at a company, someone who does history one day, cooking the next and business the third, Chris Anderson wonders whether allowing people to go deep (and to live in the niches) is more important than having a ‘publicist’. In other words, the editor who edits books on a topic all day is far more aligned than a general publicist ever could be.
If organizations permit and encourage all their employees to spread out, to speak out, to blog and to join communities about what they care about, surely there will be better alignment than there is when yet another clueless publicity person sends me yet another piece of spam about her company’s (irrelevant) products.
What’s missing from most corporate and non-profit analysis is this: If everyone has a blog, then everyone is a blogger.
Sure that sounds trivial. But then why are organizations acting like there is still us and them?