What is it about #TEDTalks that attracts such a cult-like following?
One reason: the power of storytelling.
The power of storytelling also applies to sales presentations. Sales pitches are often more like a team sport when it comes to creation. It’s a collaborative effort across various silos, from legal to product marketing to creative to region or channel. Sometimes this collaboration can lead to a fragmented, disjointed, and product-focused presentation, derailing the story. By applying the lens of simplicity, clarity, and alignment, you can get the story back on track.
Here are 7 tips for #TEDTalks-worthy sales decks:
1. Number of Slides
The average presentation slot or business meeting lasts an hour. If it’s a sales pitch, it’s even less. As it takes about two to three minutes to present one slide, tell your story in 10 to 15 slides. Focus on the essentials and place the non-essentials or extraneous details in the appendix.
2. White Space is Not the Enemy
Newspaper editors must fill each and every page with either news stories or advertising. Sales presentations are not newspapers, so why do we so often feel compelled to fill up the empty space with additional text, design, visuals, logos? White space is the open space surrounding items of interest. Instead of filling it up with content that competes for attention, it can have a powerful impact on focusing the viewer’s attention on the main point of the slide.
Another excellent way to capture attention is to have a clear visual hierarchy on the slide, allowing your audience quickly detect the most important story elements.
A clear and simple visual message will sharpen viewers’ focus and leave a lasting impression.
3. Pictures Are Worth 1,000 Words
It is widely known that human beings process visual information more efficiently than text, as reading is a skill we must learn, and picture processing is an ability we are all born with. That’s why images make the audience want to connect with you and allow them to digest your content easily. Here are some interesting facts about visual learning:
- Around 40% of learners respond better to visual information than text alone.
- We can get the sense of a visual scene in less than 1/10 of a second.
- Users retained only 10%-20% of written or spoken information but almost 65% of visual information.
- 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual.
- Visuals are processed 60,000 x faster in the brain than text.
Moreover, in 2014, the International Journal of Business Communication published the results from The Use of Visualization in the Communication of Business Strategies. The study confirmed that lists of text are ineffective for presentations and concluded that slides with visuals are undeniably more effective than slides with text.
Therefore, try to create a more visual presentation and embed the text into your speech.
4. How to Structure Your Story
Frameworks structure your narrative and help to keep your audience engaged because they will always know where they are within your story. Make it simple and stick with the three-part story structure: Beginning, Middle, and End. Simple, clear, and easy to retell.
First of all, just think that everyone in your talk has to relate to that, so have a through-line that connects everything. Chris Anderson, TED
Begin by describing something with a warmer, something that will connect you with your audience, creating a bond between you and them. Then introduce a new vision that changes their entire game. This will engage the audience even more and open them to new ideas. Next, develop a middle. Keep playing up the contrast between what they know and what could be. Finally, create a powerful ending by re-framing the beginning and then include a call –to-action. Remember, using a call to action is a great way to end a presentation, but it’s extremely important to follow it up with a vivid picture of the potential reward.
5. The All-Important Title
As previously mentioned, keep your presentation to 10 to 15 slides. With this in mind, the title becomes critical to telling the story. When you use a title that simply describes what’s on the slide, you’re wasting valuable real estate. The best titles provide context and explain the slide’s content, as well as conclusions, the core point of your slide.
For example the title “Q3 Sales” is a description and adds no value to your slide, on the other hand, “Sales increased 44 percent in Q3” is a headline and a key takeaway.
6. Fonts and Colors Count
It is widely known that colors can evoke feelings so, try and use a color palette your audience knows and trusts. The right color can help persuade and motivate. Studies show that color usage can increase interest and improve learning comprehension and retention. Usually, colors with little contrast can easily be washed out and become “invisible” for the audience. Keep your presentation simple and stick with 3 to 4 colors throughout, as this will enhance the look of your entire presentation.
Moreover, by selecting and using fonts effectively on your presentation slides, you can increase the impact of your message. Use the same font set throughout your entire presentation, and use no more than two complementary fonts.
Nevertheless, always keep in mind your company’s brand standard.
7. Break the Monotony: Show Me a Video
Studies have shown that as time elapses, the audience loses attention, and only regains it when the end is approaching. So, when you find yourself at the end of an intense or complex section of your story, you may want to include a brief video that reinforces that message. It should be no more than 60 – 90 seconds and should appear seamless to your audience, so insert it on to a slide instead of using the media player to play the video. Remember, a well-placed video can take your presentation to the next level.
Sold on the Power of Story and Visual Design Yet?
You may not make the TED stage, but follow these tips and you may have a #TEDTalks worthy presentation.The key to effective visual and verbal storytelling is simplicity, clarity, and alignment. Keep in mind that the slides are meant to support you, the speaker, and the story that you’re telling. What other tips would you add for a visually compelling sales deck? Comment below.
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 Kristin Kovner – Technology and marketing consultant and owner of K-Squared Strategies