Phase Three - The Pitch
Develop a pitch that persuades your audience using narrative and visual design; physical presence; and the scientific (and ethical) techniques of persuasion.
Make sure that you follow-up to get the go-ahead you desire. Remember to use your knowledge and understanding of the audience who will ultimately approve (or reject) your proposal so that you use the right techniques. By the end of this phase, you will secure a “Yes” to your proposal and begin the work of getting it done!
Use ethical and scientifically proven principles of persuasion to convince your audience. More than 30 years ago, Robert Cialdini wrote the book .“Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” In it, Cialdini identifies and explores, Seven Principles of Persuasion: Reciprocity, Consistency, Consensus, Liking, Authority, Scarcity, and Contrast.
Today those principles are still relevant when building the Business Case for an investment in Your Idea.
1) Reciprocity: Humans generally don’t like to feel indebted to others. When someone does something kind for us, we prefer to reciprocate rather than feel like we owe them something.
2) Consistency: People like to take actions that are consistent with their values or habits. To use the principle of consistency in your business case, consider the core ideas that you want people to hear and support -- and therefore be consistent with and approve when the time comes.
3) Consensus (Social Proof): People imitate what other people think, feel, and do. This phenomenon traces back to the human understanding of safety in numbers: if we all stick together, the outcome will likely be favourable for us.
4) Liking: People we like have an easier time convincing us to do something. A humans idea of “liking” something comes in several forms. We like people we view as similar to us: their interests, education, age, or other attributes that we also see in ourselves.
5) Authority: People tend to follow authority figures. They trust those in a position of authority to lead them. That explains why people tend to listen to those in uniforms and why they respond well to celebrity endorsements in commercials.
6) Scarcity: The perception that something is scarce drives desire for it. Most people, upon seeing scarcity-targeted advertisements, automatically feel more temptation to buy the good or service, and to do so quickly. The more people feel as though they might soon miss out on an opportunity, the more likely they become to make a purchase.
7) Contrast: Contrast helps people view how your solution is different from something else. It helps people understand your solution because they have a basis for comparing and contrasting.
Use effective storytelling to transform your message into a compelling and memorable narrative. For example; Political parties always try to control the narrative, and therefore the story.
For our purposes, the principles of a compelling story, can make your presentations and reports more engaging and interesting. Scientific studies reveal insightful details about how the brain works. That’s a powerful point to understand as you make the Business Case for investment in Your Idea.
Listening is Often an Imperfect Translation: According to author Kendall Haven in Story Proof: The Science Behind The Startling Power Of Story, sharing key messaging in a compelling narrative often engages audiences more than traditional business presentations.
Haven writes: “We’re learning that when we hear a story, our minds begin a story telling process, actually converting information into our own self-created version before the message ever reaches our conscious mind”.
The Narrative Toolbox: When sharing your Business Case with decision makers, you don’t need to start off by telling a story. But you may choose to incorporate narrative elements or story-based examples into your presentation.
The Hero’s Journey - (Business Style): In his book, Brand Bewitchery: How to Wield the Story Cycle System to Craft Spellbinding Stories for Your Brand Author Park Howell explains how business professionals can use strategic narrative to persuade audiences.
Howell created a storytelling framework that is aligned with myth-master Joseph Campbell’s famous hero journey, using the following elements: Back-story, Who’s your hero? What’s at stake? The Call to Adventure. Villains, Fog, and Crevasses. Enter the mentor. The Road of Trials. Victory is at Hand. Moral of Your Story. Rituals.
Use the principles of effective visual and audio design to communicate your Business Case. As a visual tool for presenting a business case, slide presentations like Power Point can be appealing for both you and the audience. Or they can be an overwhelming barrage of data and text that obstructs the message and distracts from the clarity of your purpose.
You are the presentation: In his book, How to Avoid Death By Power Point, Author David JP Phillips, reminds us that: “You are the presentation. You always have been. You always will be. The Power Point is just a visual aide”. To help optimise your slides, Phillips shares the following design principles:
One message per slide: When two or more key messages are introduced on a single slide, the audience is literally torn between choices, their attention diverted from one concept to the next. Phillips recommends reducing the tension of choice for the audience by including only one message per slide.
Avoid the redundancy effect: When presenters include full text sentences on a slide, then persist in reading each line aloud, this creates a high level of redundancy that may strain the patience of the audience and cause them to “cancel out” your message in their short-term memory. Phillips suggests sticking to “short, sweet bits of text and an image.”
Text size: As a biological function, the human eye tends to focus most intently on four types of visual attractors: moving objects, signalling colours (such as red, orange, and yellow), contrasting objects, and large objects. Yet, in most Power Point slides, the headline is the largest text on the page, while saying little. Reduce the title size and let the eye fall into the content, he advises. “The most important part of your slide should be the biggest.”
Visual Contrast: Use of contrast controls focus. For example, when including a long list of words on a slide, it’s more effective to highlight one item at a time as you speak. For numbers and tables, use contrast techniques to focus the eye on a single column or row of data.
Dark background: Because most companies tend to select bright white slide backgrounds, the screen may attract more attention than the presenter. Use a dark background to relax the eye and shift the focus back on you. NOTE: For online presentations, using either light or dark backgrounds is fine.
Six objects: Including the page number, count how many objects are on a slide. Studies show that it takes an audience 2.0 seconds to count ten objects and 1.2 seconds to count seven objects. When the number of objects is reduced to 6, the eye doesn’t count any more; it instantaneously “sees” them at a glance, and the audience doesn’t have to expend energy on counting.
Phillips emphasises that including page numbers on slides will create more objects on the page and remind the audience of the passage of time.
For example, if the audience sees in the lower right-hand corner of the page “slide 10 out of 40,” their attention may be drawn to the fact that there are 30 more slides to get through, thus focusing on the length of the presentation, not on your compelling content.
As presentation coach Nancy Duarte explains, half of any audience is composed of verbal mindsets and the other half is non-verbal. The best way to reach the majority is to include both elements in your slides. For example, if you have too much text, brainstorm ways to convert some to graphics.
Some other tips include:
Combine mediums: Try to reach people in multiple ways. For example, a moving slide can inspire emotions in ways a static one cannot. Building ideas sequentially adds suspense. A thought-provoking video may move your audience to think or feel something new. Whatever method you choose, be sure to “practice design, not decoration.”
You don’t need a crutch: Some nervous speakers may tend to use slides as a barrier or “shield,” but this defeats the purpose of connecting with the audience in the first place. For those who tend to hide behind the slides, try reducing the text to a few words, and shifting the remaining information into the notes. Then practice your segment over and over, to orient the audience experience back to you, not your slides.
Digital scenery: Thinking of your slides as digital scenery will remind you of their function. As scenery, they are meant to provide a visual experience to complement and support the speaker, not to lead or speak on the presenter’s behalf.
As an artist and the grandfather of data visualisation, Edward Tufte focuses on creating simplicity in design and function. Although used frequently in corporate presentations, “chart-junk” consists of distracting visual elements that are not needed for the audience to understand the data. He recommends leaving out extraneous graphics to preserve the clarity of the content.
Some other tips include:
Emphasising a minimalist approach: he advises reducing a graphic design to its core amount of “data-ink” – just enough substance or ink that needs to be there. Excess labels, edges, and other decorative features that are not central will only be distracting when you want to “induce the viewer to think about the substance.”
All the more reason to ensure that a presentation is a digital, scenic aide that upholds the visual design qualities of clarity, simplicity, and eloquence – supporting your efforts to deliver a substantive business case that will persuade the audience on the merits of its content.
Power Point is a tool, not a bludgeon: When delivering an important presentation, omit the dramatic fade-ins, crazy fonts, animation that may be irrelevant to your point, or cute clip art. Once your slides are prepared, use them as launching points for what you will say. You won’t be reading the slides; you’ll be explaining them and how they tie into your main points.
Public speaking experts: Suggest you don’t memorise your whole speech. Instead, memorise the beginning, the key points, and the end — and then practice. Practice out loud and have someone watch you; or record yourself. You’ll be able to tell if your timing is on target, if you’re speaking too fast or too slow, and if you’re doing any distracting hand gestures, you’re not aware of.
Ultimately, you will want to embody your proposal in a single presentation. Be sure to leverage your understanding of Persuasion, Narrative and Visual design to help you craft your final presentation.
Legendary Apple evangelist, Guy Kawasaki uses his 10/20/30 Rule of Power Point. It’s quite simple: a Power Point presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.
Remember that this presentation is just the tip of the iceberg. You still have in your files all the supporting analysis that led you to this proposed solution.
Absolutely have this information handy when you go into the room so that you can use it during Q&A. However, be careful to not create slides for everything you want in the room. A PowerPoint slide with 6-point font displaying financial analysis won’t be helpful.
Use in-person presentation and other interpersonal skills to present the business case to your audience. When you step into a meeting room to propose a business case, or deliver a critical speech to an audience that will evaluate you, there are proven tactics that can help you be more prepared, confident, and in command of your material.
Top universities conducted innovative studies into the dynamics of body language, neuroendocrine effects, and audience perception, and we now have answers for the following questions: How can I improve buy-in when presenting a business case? How can I appear more confident when speaking? What can I do to better influence my audience?
Humans have the ability to portray levels of confidence. They can change their energy level, enthusiasm, and body language to appear more powerful and competent to other people, even if they don’t really feel it.
One study performed at Boston College measured the results of 180 venture capitalists who were pitching to investors. The lucky few that received funding shared two behavioural traits: enthusiasm and a lack of awkwardness. These speakers stood out from competitors because they had expressed excitement about their project and demonstrated confidence.
Knowing the science, you can take some simple actions to increase your success before heading into a high-stakes meeting:
Practice different power poses (in private): You only need 2 minutes to spark a physiological change. By increasing your testosterone and lowering your cortisol, you will appear more confident and calmer in the meeting.
Be expansive, stretching out into the space: Before walking into a meeting, raise your arms in victory. Lean back in a chair and put your feet up on a desk or table. Fold your arms in a relaxed manner behind your head like a movie director. Stand legs apart and hands-on-hips like Superman or Wonder Woman.
Don’t power pose during the meeting: “Kicking back” and casually putting your feet up on the meeting table will not work at a business presentation. However, to preserve the expanded body language, continue to outstretch your arms, place your hand on a prop such as a whiteboard, or if seated, rest both arms evenly on the arms of the chair. The idea is to remain open and expanded, versus contracted and tight.
Do not over-dominate the meeting: Although you can still be expansive, over-dominating the space will come across more as “stealing the space” amid decision makers who have more power than you. Be expansive, but not overbearing.
Fake it ‘till you make it: As Cuddy points out, even if you do not feel particularly confident or calm, pretending like you do will have the same physiological effect. Her advice: Repeat the process until you genuinely become it.
Now that you know the power poses heading into the meeting, the rest will depend on your mastery and delivery of the content.
Communications expert Nancy Duarte estimates that standard prep time for professional speakers is approximately one hour for every one minute of speech.
For an 18-minute speech, like a TED talk, she calculates that 18 hours of practice is needed, not including time for slide development. High-stakes meetings justifiably require more work. Here are some of her tips:
Practice out loud: Get up on your feet and perform your presentation over and over. Practice anywhere, any time. Listen to the cadence of your sentences and adjust wording as needed.
Find an audience: Test your material and get constructive feedback from people you trust.
Video record yourself: This will enable you to glimpse the audience’s experience of your presentation, and you can make improvements as needed.
Stay on time: Practice with a clock and perform the last few runs with the clock counting down to zero. Make sure you do not speak over the time frame. Calculate roughly where you are at intervals. (Duarte places a mental “time-stamp” during her speeches every 6 minutes). In fact, for business meetings, a better rule is to finish 5 minutes early.
Practice with the slides: Keep in mind that the slides are merely “digital scenery,” and that you, as speaker, should remain the focus of the presentation.
Above all, when delivering your material, remember why you were passionate about it in the first place. Don’t allow nerves or doubts to block your ability to feel your purpose. As Professor Cuddy says: “If you believe in your idea and can communicate this belief, that’s what really matters.”
The day of your presentation arrive at the conference room early to set up your equipment and practice with the remote. Move furniture around as needed so everyone will be able to see you and what you’re showing them.
Whether you sit or stand, position yourself next to the screen, not next to the projector. You don’t want to give people whiplash looking from you to the screen — and or sit on the left side of the screen
English-speaking audiences read left to right, so it’s a more natural movement for executives to follow along. If you have members of your team joining you, have them sit on the other side of the screen, across from you.
In any presentation, you have three sources of information: 1) What you say. 2) What you put on a slide. 3) What you hand out to the audience on paper.
Understand the distinctions among the three.
Do not read aloud the material on your slides: The audience can do that themselves. Whatever handouts you do use should not be the same as your slides; slides visually represent the points you are making, and should have little text.
Handouts are different: They should be given at the conclusion. They are a concise summary of your request, with perhaps one or two of your strongest metrics or charts. One rule of thumb: slides should not be able to stand alone; handouts should.
Spread your eye contact: You’re trying to convince audience rather than the screen, so save your eye contact for the humans in the room. Spread that eye contact around instead of zeroing in on one person.
Speak a little slower than normal: But be sure to use some inflection to avoid sounding like a robot. Let your audience know you’ve planned for questions at the end, so you don’t get derailed on extraneous points.
Above all, no handouts at the start of your presentation: No one will resist peeking at it, diverting their attention from you. Keep any handouts in a folder and distribute them at the end. Or if you want to walk them through a particularly dense slide, hand out just that sheet when you come to it.
Don’t end your remarks with whatever is on the last slide: End with a brief recap and your call to action. Then thank them for their time as a clear signal you’re finished and ask for questions. Again, after the last question, repeat your call to action.
And it’s worth stressing again: don’t let the meeting run late. The management team isn’t going to think kindly upon you or your request if you take up more of their time than promised and make them late for their next appointment.
Questions during the presentation will be your first challenge. The tough ones come in a few categories. Prepare for these in advance.
The question you don’t know how to answer: When you get one of them, don’t pretend that you do know the answer. Ask the person to repeat it, then admit you don’t know. Next, offer to provide an answer later. This cuts short the difficult situation, gives the questioner the promise of an answer, and invites you to follow up with that person later.
The question that lacks an answer: Typically, this is from someone who, in the guise of asking a question, is making a statement. If you get this one, let them be heard and perhaps even restate it (if you can.) But, again, don’t try to answer it.
The endless questioner: This can be a stalling tactic designed to keep anything from being decided. If someone asks a question that you answer well enough and then follows up with more than one or two more, you may have encountered a staller. Again, offer to give more information after the meeting. Then call on the next questioner.
Now - Move Onto Phase Four
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