The non-conformist’s guide to presenting your ideas

When presenting your ideas, it’s OK—in fact, it’s preferable—to be a little different.

When presenting your ideas, it’s OK—in fact, it’s preferable—to be a little different.

Marketers are always giving presentations… to their boards, marketing and sales team members, and executives, to name just a few of the constituencies. Their roadshows can range from getting people pumped at the national sales meeting to begging for a bigger budget from the CFO, but all share the common purpose of getting an idea across to someone, and having them understand and accept it.

Easier said than done.

I once had a client who was, as she put it, a “teacher of teachers.” Her job was to go into schools—from preschool up through college—and conduct in-depth workshops to help teachers connect with their students better. Her approach centered on the notion that there are different types of learners: Visual, aural and tactile. To be truly effective for the whole, you need to use all three techniques of communication. The trouble was, she maintained, that most people teach in just one of those modes, maybe two if you’re lucky. Her job was to broaden them.

Likewise, many corporate marketing presenters fall into the same-old, same-old. They present the situation analysis, data, the deliverables, budget numbers and the like. It’s a structure they’ve used many times.

When you think about it, though, a presentation is really just a story. And like every story, it has elements that form a plot. Now, you can have a linear, predictable story—A, B, C, D, etc.—but we’ve all seen those kinds of movies and shows. They leave us yawning and yearning for something more.

Here’s an interesting little formula for making your presentation sparkle. Its structure can be applied to nearly any topic you have to present, but when you set up your story this way, it tends to pull the audience in from the beginning. It’s based on three simple plot lines:

Why > How > What

Here’s how it works.

Start with the why. If you’ve never seen the Simon Sinek talk on TED, leave now and experience it. It explains this concept better than I ever will, but here’s the gist: People love when there’s a purpose or deeper meaning for something. It gives people context, helps them see the bigger picture, and sets the tone and logic for a path taken. It can also be very inspiring.

And, it’s a killer way to start a presentation.

So instead of a lecture on “Marketing Objectives for 2015,” followed by slide after slide of bullet points, perhaps start with your company’s or brand’s deeper purpose or mission. Why you’re here, the meaning of it… and what you want to do about it.

My suggestion: Open with a memorable and repeatable story or anecdote. It will reach your audience in an emotional and logical way and help them share your idea/concept/presentation later, when they repeat your story to someone else.

Next, move onto the how. Since you’ve given your audience the context of the why, you can now show them how you plan to take action. This is where you reveal your insights and strategy. Demonstrate how the why acted as a springboard or inspiration for your thinking. This not only establishes logic, but if done well, can also create an emotional connection with your audience.

Here’s an idea: This second stage is really a good time to present data, substantiation, back-up and more. You’re making a case, connecting the why to the real world.

Finally, there’s the what. OK, we all know why we’re here and how we think. Now we reveal what we’re going to do. This is the actionable, concrete part of your presentation. You can present specific tactics, deliverables, numbers and more—all the details!

A recommendation: Visual aids help here, a lot. It’s one thing to explain something to someone, it’s quite another to show them. If your presentation’s subject warrants it, do a little show-n-tell. It will bring the why and how to life.

BONUS TIPS! 5 things to do before any presentation…

  1. Go to the bathroom.
  2. Have a bottle of water ready. It’s easy, when speaking, to get very dry mouthed. Hydrate!
  3. Get there early, prepare yourself, be sure that your audio/visual equipment is in order and that your presentation works.
  4. Don’t freak about everything you have to say. Just focus on the first thing—the rest will flow. Remember, you don’t look nearly as nervous as you feel!
  5. Remind yourself to speak clearly and slowly… to breathe… and to smile.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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