TransCanada chief uses rhetoric to lay the blame on rhetoric

Girling

A well structured sound-bite is guaranteed to win you headlines.

TransCanada president and chief executive, Russ Girling, knows this. Here’s what he had to say about last week’s decision not to go ahead with the Keystone XL Pipeline:

“Today, misplaced symbolism was chosen over merit and science — rhetoric won out over reason,”

Take a quick scan of the resulting coverage and you’ll notice that most articles not only reference this line, but lead on it.

And that’s because this line is a carefully constructed piece of rhetoric specifically designed to generate a sound-bite. So well crafted in fact, it could have come straight from our very own Dirty Rhetoric toolkit!

Hang-on a moment though, because the quote itself is attacking rhetoric as being the evil that doomed the pipeline!

So – Russ Girling…. J’accuse! And the crime is that of skullduggerously attempting to shift the blame by blaming rhetoric, while using – rhetoric!

Here’s my evidence before the jury:

Item: Use of Opposites

Misplaced versus merit. Symbolism over science. Communicators call this antithesis, and it’s a guaranteed tool of the sound-bite.

Item: Use of the sound-pattern ‘FunPhrase’

It’s no coincidence that we’ve got those double ‘M’s, repeated ‘S’s and finally that lovely triple-play on ‘rhetoric…won…reason’.

Technical term – ‘Consonance’, but we call it FunPhrase. Yet another sound-bite technique.

Item: Use of Analogy

Here’s where it all gets just a little bit clever, because when we look at the whole phrase, there’s a hidden logic-structure at play. A is to B, as C is to D:

Misplaced symbolism is to science, as rhetoric is to reason

Having lost the argument, Russ Girling now blames defeat on his opponents’ unfair use of this evil thing called rhetoric — while freely using rhetoric himself.

Rhetoric is an essential human tool. It’s the tool that allows us to create everything from structured logic through to poetry of the highest art. It is also, admittedly, the first refuge of the scoundrel when seeking to shift the focus.

So – today’s top-tip – whenever you hear a public figure laying the blame on ‘rhetoric’, be suspicious.

Be very suspicious.

How to do Chiasmus

by Peter Paskale

It’s not the men in your life that matters, it’s the life in your men

One of Mae West’s celebrated phrases. Along with “Come up and see me some time“, to read these words is to hear the sinuous drawl in which they were delivered.

West was a Queen of the soundbite. She was also a Queen of chiasmus — a little rhetorical device that adds style to any presentation or piece of writing.

Mae West isn’t alone in her crush on chiasmus. Take a look at these:

  • With my mind on my money and my money on my mind
  • I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me
  • I meant what I said and I said what I meant
  • All for one and one for all

That’s with thanks, respectively, to Snoop Dogg, Winston Churchill, Horton the Elephant, and the Three Musketeers — and I’m willing to bet that this is the first time in recorded history those four names have ever appeared together on the same list.

Chiasmus is when two lines of text, or two adjacent phrases, are symmetrical — “I meant what I said – I said what I meant“. The human brain just loves things that are symmetrical. The more symmetrical a thing, the more we see it as intrinsically attractive. It even reaches to our assessment of human beauty — the more symmetrical someone’s face, the more beautiful we believe they are.

So symmetry captures the eye, or the ear, of an audience, just as a radio advert did to me yesterday when I heard the slogan of a tax advisor “working hard for hard workers“.

Building chiasmus into writing or speaking provides an instant style-boost, but the technique looks difficult. When you first try to create your own chiasmus, confusion creeps all over you. I know. I’ve been there. So, a few ideas to de-mystify the tool of chiasmus:

Chiasmus needs only to be roughly symmetrical
Chiasmus is essentially two phrases, side-by-side, where the second phrase loosely reverses the first. Loosely! It does not need to be a mirror-perfect reflection. So, whilst “Tea for two and two for tea” might be a letter-perfect model – it’s not one to copy.

Keep in mind something more like “‘Instead of landing on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock would land on them.”

The reflection is loose. It’s flexible rather than perfect — in fact it’s perfectly flexible.

Chiasmus can agree, or disagree. It really doesn’t matter
Make a web-search for chiasmus and you’re going to meet JFK’s famous “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country“, and this can lead you to believe that as well as mirroring each other, the two phrases must also counter each other.

Not true. The two sides of a chiasmus can agree or disagree — it doesn’t matter. “Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he“.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery
The best route to a confident chiasmus is to copy! Copy and mangle and do it with happy abandon.

Let’s take Horton the Elephant and see what we can build out of “I meant what I said and I said what I meant”:

  • I like what I do and I do what I like
  • If you read what you love, then you’ll love what you read
  • See the friends you enjoy and you’ll enjoy the friends that you’re with

Keep a lid on it
Beware of inflicting a chiasmus-overdose on your audience. Limit it to just one per article or speech.

Have a go!
Chiasmus looks scary on first sight and that can stop us from experimenting with a fabulous tool for fabulous soundbites.

Don’t be afraid to start-out by copying chiasmus examples. It’s the best way to start and will guarantee that your speeches get noticed, which is important, because in the words of Mae West:

I’d rather be looked over, than overlooked.

Why Giving a Thanksgiving Toast is Like the Macy’s Parade

Snoopy

by Peter Paskale

Thanksgiving morning, and if you’re lucky enough not to be in the kitchen wrestling a turkey, then maybe you’re reclined in front of the TV and watching the floats glide down 6th Avenue.

Thanksgiving is one of the most uniquely American holidays. The day is heartwarming and kind. It’s a day when we eat and drink and watch old favorite movies and cheer in front of afternoon football. It’s a day when we come together as friends and families to celebrate, and to enjoy happy traditions.

One of those traditions however, is the Thanksgiving toast, and for the family member assigned the “honor” of making it, composing that toast can seem more than a little stressful.

Fear not. Whilst watching the Macy’s Parade, you witnessed a floating formula for the perfect Thanksgiving toast.

First, there needs to be a giant Snoopy – that’s something traditional. Then there needs to be a nod to whatever the latest hot children’s character is – that’s something contemporary. And above all, the whole thing needs to be wrapped around in a general feeling of childlike sentimentality – and that’s something heartwarming.

Something traditional. Something contemporary. And something heart-warming — the three essentials for your Thanksgiving toast.

First off – the traditional

This is the easy bit — it’s the most formulaic. There are three things you need to do.

Recall tradition

Express gratitude for the family and friends coming together to celebrate the holiday.

Mention those no longer with us

Are there any significant people who have departed this world in the past year? — GrandPa or GrandMa, Mom or Dad, or Great-Aunt Ethel. It might seem counter-intuitive to mention the dead when you’re aiming for happy, but Thanksgiving lunch is a meal where the dead are present. Those who would once have been at the table but are with you no longer, will be in everyone’s hearts. They need a mention, and the living need to hear those names.

Thank the chef

Move from the dead, straight back into the living. There’s going to be someone vaguely panting, with red-chafed hands and hair awry. Someone who has spent the whole morning stressing in the kitchen. Focus attention on this person, and look them firmly in the eye as you thank them for their labors.

Next – The Contemporary

This bit is slightly trickier. What are you giving thanks for? Everybody present will, hopefully, have something this year that they are proud of, or feel that they would like to mention. This is the moment for audience participation. In our family, we go around the table and everybody says a few words about what they, personally, have been grateful for this year.

Don’t however, just drop this question onto your unsuspecting audience. An awkward silence will be guaranteed to follow. You need to give them warning, so use words such as:

“There have been so many wonderful things this year. Let’s have everybody share just a few words about what they’re thankful for this Thanksgiving.”

As you say this, look to the person sitting beside you, and then cast your glance down the side of the table along which the statements are going to flow. Let the group know what they are meant to do. It’s also a good idea to have pre-informed that first person in the chain about what’s going to happen. That way they are ready to respond. As they are speaking, others will, in turn, be planning what they might like to say.

Finally – The HeartWarming

Two simple techniques create heart-warming:

Slow and smiling

When we become tense, as so many of us do when speaking in public, we gabble. Gabbling creates tension, and tension is the direct opposite of heartwarming. You need to slow your rate of speech just a little, and the best way to do that is to smile. If you’re smiling, then it becomes a physical impossibility to gabble. You’ll look like you’re enjoying the moment, and if the folks around the table believe that you are relaxed, then they’ll be relaxed too.

Lots of “us”. Lots of “we”. Lots of “our”.

It’s scary how often we use “I” and “my” when we’re speaking. Natural speech is more possessive than inclusive, and at Thanksgiving, it all needs to be about inclusive.

As far as you can – aim for pronouns that bring everyone together. Use “we” and “us” and “our”, whilst actively avoiding “I” and “my” and “you”.

This one small but important skill will inject more natural warmth into your speech than the finest and most soaring rhetoric.

Finally, three standard rules that apply — not just to this speech, but to any speech:

Plan what you’re going to say. Practice what you’re going to say. And keep it short! Less than 20 seconds, and it’s a little too short, but more than four minutes, and it needs some editing.

Remember those balloons in the Macy’s Parade. They’re light, and bright, and colourful. That’s what makes the parade such a much-loved tradition, and the same will be true for your Thanksgiving toast!

Dirimens copulatio and LBJ’s War on Poverty Speech

by Peter Watts

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the speech in which President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty.

Listening to a section of it on my car radio this morning, I heard the phrase:

“Our aim is not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty but to cure it – and above all to prevent it.”

That’s dirimens copulatio, which is the “not only…. but” figure.

Rhetoric is a tangled heap. The past 3000 years have allowed the magic word spells we call rhetorical figures to be defined and re-defined so many times that you often find multiple definitions for the same thing. Dirimens is the ultimate example because 2000 years ago Cicero was already disagreeing with Aristotle about exactly what it was.

I’m going with Cicero’s definition because frankly, it makes more sense. He said that the purpose of dirimens was to amplify a topic, making it seem larger and more striking. Hence the format:

  • We’re not only going to do x, but we’re going to do y as well.
  • Not only do people suffer from x, but they have to suffer y as well.
  • You’ll not only win x, but we’re going to throw in y as well.

Instead of dirimens copulatio, maybe we should call it the game-show figure, because it’s exactly what a game-show host would say to rouse the thrashing zombie-mob in the audience to even wilder applause:

“And tonight, not only will you win this car, but we’ll even throw in a free year of gas”

Next time you’re making a presentation, try a dirimens copulatio. Not only will it emphasise your point, but it’s straight-forward as well.

But be careful how you Google it. It’s surprisingly easy to mis-spell!

For impact: It’s diacope baby, diacope”

by Peter Watts

Oh dear. It wasn’t my intention but I appear to be channeling Austin Powers, which for a British blogger is mortifying. Utterly mortifying. And I also seem to have gotten myself lost in a loop of this week’s topic: the diacope, which is a wonderfully useful rhetorical tool for creating  impact and soundbites. Fabulous soundbites, such as:

“Yeah, baby, yeah.”

It’s  just two words, put together in a structure of A-B-A (sorry, couldn’t resist attaching the YouTube clip).

“Bond, James Bond.”

Once again, supremely memorable, and just two words: A-B-A.

How about “Drill, baby, drill”. Suddenly it’s the 2008 election all over again, and even though Sarah Palin didn’t actually coin this particular phrase, that A-B-A carried her to fame if not to elected office.

Diacope is an easy way to slip a soundbite into your presentation. Let’s take the word “service” as an example. Here’s some differing diacopes that could land a service message:

  • “Customers demand service. Exceptional service”
  • “Our core value is service. Award-winning service”
  • “Our focus is service. Timely service”

A-B-A creates a soundbite without an overt sense of  drama, and the first time you try out a new technique, that’s a great place to start. After a little successful experimentation though, you could try diacope’s  splashier big cousin: A-A-B-A.

In “White Christmas”, Danny Kaye uses the phrase: “The Theater, the Theater, what’s happened to the Theater?” Fans will recognize that as the opening line of “Choreography”.

Kenneth Williams meanwhile, playing Julius Caesar in “Carry on Cleo” used diacope for the fabulous: “Infamy, Infamy; they’ve all got it in for me.”, thereby abusing Shakespeare while simultaneously demonstrating that diacope can play with word sounds as much as with the words themselves.

Here are a few possible A-A-B-A business samples, this time playing with the theme of “strength”:

  • “Strength, strength, industrial strength.”
  • “Toughness, toughness, rock-solid toughness.”
  • “Muscle, muscle, absolute muscle.”

As you read these examples, you might think  they look painfully awkward on the page, and that’s because like many rhetorical tools, diacope is more intended to be said than read. It needs the inflection of human voice to breath  life into the words. Also don’t forget that you’re  reading these in isolation and normally they would be blended into a longer phrase:

Bandwidth, bandwidth, affordable high-capacity bandwidth. We want to put streaming video and voice services within the reach of the regular subscriber, not just those willing to pay through the nose for premium services. That’s our goal with these new high-capacity, low-cost, high-bandwidth products.”

When folded into a phrase, the A-A-B-A format gives a power-lifter lift-off to your message.

Yeah, Baby, Yeah!

(Sorry. Last time I’ll do that. Honest!)

Feeling horny. Reflections on questions inspired by a Middle East taxi

by Peter Watts

Asking your audience a question can cue them back into your presentation, but if the audience aren’t expecting it, a silent collision can result.

I’ve just had a similar near-death experience here in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, only it wasn’t in front of an audience, it was in the back of a rush-hour cab where my driver was using his horn the way that a regular driver might use their turn-signal:

Beep Beep….. I might be turning right

Beep Beep….. I might be turning left

Beep Beep….. I’m not turning at all, but there’s a side-street coming up, so what the heck

Beep Beep….. There’s a large SUV hurtling straight towards me down this dusty side-street and I’m going to play chicken with it, just so long as the British guy in the back doesn’t attempt to leap from the cab

Beep Beep….. I’ve just put on the central locking, so take note British guy: Fear of imminent and messy death is no justification for trying to avoid the fare by jumping out of a moving vehicle

The guy spoke fluent horn and all the other road-users seemed to understand it. He had a Old Testament ability to keep on miraculously parting the traffic, and once I came up out of the airline brace position, I realized that there was a definite schema to all the tooting; a schema that can be applied to asking your audience a question.

He was using the horn to warn other vehicles that he was about to come zipping around them, straight between them, or in the case of that jeep in the side-street, straight at them!

He didn’t just spring the impending collision, he pre-announced it so they could get out of the way. It was fair warning that he was about to do something nuts!

In presentations, the same skill is useful whenever you are about to spring something nuts on your audience, such as a question.

There’s several reasons presenters put questions to the audience:

  • It shows that you are confident
  • It shows that you want a two-way communication
  • It can build rapport
  • It can win you thinking time
  • It can be used to re-focus people’s attention onto a key point

It’s a valuable tool, but the downside is that many presenters have had the experience of asking an audience question only to be greeted by a puzzled silence.

The silence isn’t caused by the audience being unable to answer your question. It’s caused by the fact that they weren’t expecting a question.

Even the most attentive audience members don’t listen continuously. They tune in and out, and at any given moment, no matter how brilliant a speaker you are, a chunk of those folks are momentarily contemplating other things. When you unexpectedly hit them with a question, the people who had temporarily tuned-out will instinctively glance nervously at the folks to either side of them, and as that ripple of uncertainty spreads, the audience decide that silence is the best option.

From an early morning rush-hour perspective, my cabbie had this completely figured out. He was using the horn to cue other drivers into the fact that he was about to do something unexpected; like drive straight at them! They therefore needed to be paying attention and ready to react.

Your audience don’t expect a question to come straight at them. They too therefore need to be paying attention and ready to react.

Your Beep-Beep will take the form of a simple statement.

Pause for a moment, and then say: “I have a question for you…..”

Now pause again, and look at the audience. You will see people visibly sit forward as they tune into you. Every ear in the house becomes focussed. Ask your question now and you’re much more likely to get an answer.

Simply because everybody heard you.

When you’re about to do something crazy unexpected, like ask a question, use the horn.

For credibility, hit the tables

by Peter Watts

To persuasively get your presentation point across, there’s a lot to learn from studying the ethos of casinos.

Oxymoron there? Maybe in the classical sense of “ethos”, but in terms of presenting, when we mention “ethos” we’re talking about credibility. The more ethos you can build in the eyes of an audience, then the more logic or “logos” they will assign to you, and the more logos you have, the more inclined they are to accept your argument. No matter how flimsy it might be. More on that later!

It’s possible to have a watertight argument, but not persuade the audience. Casinos meanwhile have a completely illogical argument, and yet persuade their audience to part with bucket-loads of cash, and this little piece of presentation power is called the ethos-logos loop.

Looked at logically, we know that when we walk into a casino, the odds are against us. The best way to walk out a millionaire is to walk in a billionaire. We know this. And yet still people gamble at the casino. What workings are at play?

Gambling relies on a logical fallacy. Author Jay Heinrichs refers to this as the fallacy of hasty generalization.

“If this person won a million bucks, then you can to.”

Sure you can, but the odds are monumentally against it.

So as a presented proposition, casinos have really weak logic. They overcome it by manipulating that ethos-logos loop:

If an audience perceives you as being credible (ethos), they become more inclined to accept your logic (logos). And as they accept your logos, they become even more inclined to believe that you’re credible

Round and round it goes; an unfortunate little persuasion loop in the human brain that gambling establishments have known about since the first dice rolled across a table.

The logos the casino wants you to buy into is the idea that someone, somewhere, is winning big, and it could be you! It’s a weak argument, but the ethos-logos loop suggests we might buy into it, given a sufficient dose of ethos to power the loop.

How does the casino do this, and how can we do the same in presentations?

Clear Rules

Casinos come with rules, and they emphasize those rules. Croupiers for example work under rules about how each and every poker cards is dealt from the shoe.

Rules indicate ethos. There are policies, there are procedures, they are transparent, and they are the same for everyone. Even the classic sidewalk “Shell Game” scam starts out with an apparently thorough demonstration of the “rules” in order to indicate ethos.

In your presentation: Look to timing, agenda, and audience questions

The closest thing to a book of rules in a presentation are the agenda, the stated duration, and how you intend to take audience questions. Once you’ve put those rules on the table, it’s surprisingly important to stick to them. Deviation means you break your own rules, and when you break the rules, your ethos breaks too.

Pay-off stories

Walk into a casino and you’ll see flashing displays of how many millions of dollars have been won that day. Even individual machines boast their pay-out levels. This is another logical fallacy in play. It’s one-sided information. What you don’t see is how many thousands had to be paid into the machine in order to achieve the payout.

In your presentation: Share pay-off stories

By sharing examples of how your product, your service, or your message has helped others, you boost credibility through saying “this happened for these guys; it can happen for you”.

Cognitive Consonance

The one-sided information presented in all those flashing pay-out displays works because it matches the hopes and beliefs of the audience as they walk in. They want to see how much is being won. They’re not so interested in knowing how much is being lost!

Audiences are pre-inclined to think in certain directions, and they look for information that confirms their pre-held beliefs.

In your presentation: Head for the common ground

Even if you want to shake an audience up, it’s not a good idea to confront pre-set world views too early in a presentation. All you achieve is an uncomfortable dose of dissonance, and rather than doubt themselves, the audience will prefer to doubt YOU!

Start by stating common ground that you have with the audience. Where you already know that they buy into certain areas of your message, emphasize those areas.

Shared views emphasize ethos. Disagreements reduce it.

Cheer Leaders

Listen to all those cheers you hear from the gambling tables around you. Each cheer says that yet another member of Joe Public just won big. If they are winning, then it could be you. A logical fallacy again; we don’t know how many people lost, or if the person who just got the cheer only experienced a reprieve during their landslide to a massive loss. We just hear the cheer, and that’s all we need.

In your presentation: Boost-up the cheer leaders

The important thing about cheer-leaders is that they have to be independent. They have to be fellow members of Joe Public.

That’s why independent benchmarks, customer testimonials, awards, and press reviews are gold within sales presentations. Where you’ve got them, flaunt them. Just make sure they are relevant to your message.

Casinos have a lot to teach us about presenting. They’ve spent many, many years, perfecting their craft.

If careful manipulation of ethos boosts the wobbly logic behind gambling, then imagine what it can do when applied to the positive logic of your next presentation.

Nancy Duarte Resonate iBook

by Peter Watts

“Great presenters transform audiences”, and Resonate on the Apple iPad transforms business books. Resonate shows what’s possible when strong ideas combine with eye-catching delivery.

Think of it as a TARDIS

Resonate is my first encounter with a business book on the iPad. Many e-books simply taken a traditional book format, and make them electronic, but Nancy Duarte has gone several steps further and supplemented text with videos, sound clips, and pop-out diagrams. Resonate resembles Doctor Who’s TARDIS; it’s way bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside. The book is packed with ideas, but the multimedia approach compress those ideas into shiny nuggets. Those nuggets are memorable, and when you take the self-assessment quizzes at the end of each chapter, you’ll be surprised at how much information you absorbed in a short time.

The Audience is the Hero

The standout message of Resonate is that the audience is the hero. You are the mentor. You are Yoda guiding Luke Skywalker. Your role as mentor is to launch the audience onto a journey that leads to new insights and discoveries.

This mind-shift to presenter as mentor subtly shifts your presentation style. I tried the shift for myself during a three day training class and I found that it made me a kinder presenter, a more patient presenter, and at times, willing to be a far more challenging presenter.

Taking the audience on a story

The topic of story-telling has attracted so much online comment in the past year that it’s almost become an internet meme. But what does “storytelling” in a presentation context actually mean? To the average person storytelling involves starting with the phrase “Once upon a time” and then ending with “…and they all lived happily ever after”, but what should go on in the middle? The storytelling buzz leaves many presenters confused.

Resonate actually explains how the process works. Nancy Duarte uses examples from literature and cinema, and combines them with the work of Hollywood script analyst Chris Vogler. In my favorite section of Resonate, Nancy uses the full potential of the iBook to combine Chris Vogler’s video-tutorials on storytelling with expandable diagrams that lay-out the storytelling process; a process known as “The Hero’s Journey”.

This work on The Hero’s Journey not only applies to presenters, but also represents the stages a customer passes through on the way to a major purchase. Resonate is therefore a great book for salespeople.

The story form

The third key idea in Resonate is the use of the Story Form, a shape describing the accordion push and pull between the opposing tensions of what is, and of what could be.

NancysShapeBetter

The tension between these two points creates contrast between an audience’s current situation, and the improved situation or “new bliss” that a presenter is describing.

Resonate shows how to use a structure that flexes back and forth between these two points, creating a motion that propels audiences forward.

Anecdotes

Anecdotes from the author are an important part of business books. Nancy Duarte anecdotes are humorous, usually self-effacing, and always relevant. From how to save yourself when presenting while heavily medicated through how to prepare the ultimate beer presentation when you really don’t like beer, each anecdote brings to life another aspect of presenting.

It’s fun

Finally, Resonate is tremendous fun to read. It has a huge personality, and while it centrally features Nancy Duarte, her whole team get’s pulled in as well. For my personal favorite, flick to page 21. Play with the slider that appears at the top of the page, and see what happens to Art Director Ryan as his image gets morphed to prove the point that your presentation isn’t all about you.

Resonate on the iPad is available from the Apple App Store

Review: “HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations” by Nancy Duarte

nancy

Precision coaching for all presenters

By Peter Watts

Nancy Duarte’s Guide to Persuasive Presentations is a concise primer to the skills of presenting, from planning your pitch through to polished delivery.

Of particular value are the sections on how to put together high quality visuals. Some of the book’s best sound-bites are found when Duarte discusses how to create slides that work for an audience, and since reading that section I’ve found myself looking out far more in my own work for the “visual cliches” that Duarte warns about.

This focus on visual layout gives the book a cross-over to the world of blogging because if you are a presenter who also blogs, you’ll find ideas about the use of layouts, diagrams, and imagery. All valuable for an appealing web-page.

This brings us neatly to the topic of social media, and another strength of the HBR Guide. The book brings presenting right into the present day with topics about how you can blend social media resources such as Twitter into presentations, and how to make the maximum use of web-based backchannel communications.

Nancy Duarte is incredibly generous with how she shares the stage. Every chapter contains references to subject matter experts from multiple fields, and advises different books you might like to try out. Backchannel communications for example, is a relatively new topic for me, and right there on the same page that Duarte introduces the topic, she accompanies it with a recommended author from whom you can find out more.

Now for the confession: This wasn’t the Nancy Duarte book that I initially wanted to review. My target was her recent and much-discussed book “Resonate”, but sitting at London’s Heathrow Airport and trying to buy a copy for my Nook e-reader, I discovered that Duarte’s electronic coverage is surprisingly patchy.

The HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations is the only Duarte title Barnes & Noble have in e-book format, while Amazon do slightly better; they have the HBR guide and “Slideology” available for Kindle. No trace of Resonate at this stage however.

Still, having chosen to go with the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations as my first trip into the writing of Nancy Duarte, I’m pleased that I did. The guide gets full marks as an all round primer, with specific focus on presentation visuals. It also deserves a place on a virtual bookshelf due to it’s generosity as a resource guide to additional subject matter experts. Finally, it gets fullest marks for it’s brevity. Brilliantly concise.

Now on the look-out for “Resonate” as an e-book!

UPDATE: March 26th

Resonate on the iPad

It turns out that Resonate is available on the iPad. Thank you Nancy for dropping by the blog to share. First look is deeply impressive, and a full review will be coming shortly.

Sales presentation strategy

By Peter Watts

What is your primary goal in making a sales presentation? It’s to sell something.

So why do so many sales-presenters try to conceal the fact? You might be amongst them. Do your sales presentations open with phrases such as:

  • “Your success is important, and we’re going to look at how our products can help you be even more successful.”
  • “We’ve helped many organizations achieve benefits, and in this presentation we’ll explore how we could help you to do the same”
  • “The purpose of this presentation is to demonstrate how our products offer you the best value solution.”

All commendable sentiments, but also great big honking fibs!

A lot of salespeople, especially the salespeople with the really big impressive job titles such as “Senior Strategic Account Director” or some other business-card hokum, have internalized the message that selling is just a little bit dirty. To be after the customer’s cash is sleazy and liable to make them doubt your credibility.

Actually no. If you want to make the audience doubt your credibility then attempting to conceal the primary purpose of your presentation is a far better place to start!

You’re there to sell and the customer is there to buy.

It’s actually two highly compatible agendas.

Within public speaking there is a topic called ethos, and this is all about credibility. As public speaking expert Andrew Dlugan explains, ethos is everything you include in a presentation to show that you are credible in your subject, trustworthy as a speaker, and compatible with the audience viewpoint.

There are things that you can do throughout the sections of a presentation to build-up your ethos as a speaker, but nowhere is ethos more important than the section right at the beginning. This is where the audience asks themselves: “Can we trust this person?”

If you’ve just started your presentation with a sweet sounding but rather transparent fib about your primary purpose, then what do you think you just did to your ethos level?

You avoided any words to do with sales because you didn’t want to sound sleazy, but instead you’ve made yourself sound evasive. And sleazy!

Here are some ideas for professional ways to tell the customer that you’re interested in the colour of their money:

  • “I would love to be able to welcome you as a customer.”
  • “I would be delighted to have your business.”
  • “I want to demonstrate how buying our product will meet your goals.”

All of these statements say “I want your business”, and all of these statements start with the first person “I”. This is important. It’s you that’s standing in front of the customer, and you that is asking them to believe the words that are about to come. Even if you are representing a larger organization, using the word “I” gives meat and ownership to those words.

Now for the little bit of blog-magic. Take any of those three phrases in red, and stick them in front of  any of the three earlier phrases in blue. The result sounds a lot stronger doesn’t it.

By being upfront, you create transparency. Transparency creates trust. Trust creates credibility.

Credibility creates a winning sales presentation.

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