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Does your audience listen when you speak?

presentation at meeting

You’ve been asked to give a presentation at your next staff meeting.  Do you think:

a) “I have so much to say, I just don’t know how I’m going to fit it into a five minute slot”

b) “My topic is really boring…. no-one is ever interested in what I have to say”

c) “I don’t even know where to start!”

We all want our audience to take our message on board when we speak.  After taking the first step and considering the needs of your audience, here’s a simple structure to help you to write your message so that they really listen to what you have to say.  We call it the SABA structure, and you’ll see it underpinning so many great talks and messages. In the post below, we’ve chosen two popular TED talks to highlight the use of the SABA structure.  Brené Brown’s widely-watched TED talk on the power of vulnerability  and Bryan Stevenson’s TED talk on racial inequality both follow SABA, whether they intended it or not!

 

S – Scene

First of all set the scene for your audience. You can’t assume that they know about your topic.   In a sales pitch, this might be as short as a single sentence, explaining the need for your proposal. In a longer talk you can take the opportunity to set the context for your idea.  Bryan Stevenson ‘s talk delivers a hard-hitting message, but gives it personal context with a warm story about the power of identity.  Brené Brown opens her talk with a short story that connects her audience to who she is and why she’s passionate about the work that she does.

 

A – Approach

What’s your approach?  In your presentation, what are you going to do to address the need that you’ve established in your audience’s mind?  Or maybe you want to give your audience some concrete information to lend credibility to your message. But beware! This is where many people put most of their focus in their presentations. You’re in danger of losing your audience completely, if you drown them in detail. In her talk, Brené Brown makes brief reference to her ten-year career as a social worker and her work as a researcher, but it’s all we need to believe in her conclusions later in her talk.

 

B – Benefits

Why should your audience care?  What would your audience do if they didn’t adopt your proposal? Stop for a moment and consider your audience’s second-best option.   Now go ahead and position your proposal against the competition – explain why you’re painting a brighter picture or what they’ll get out of following your suggestion.  Both Bryan Stevenson and Brené Brown make use of storytelling to invent a better future.

 

A – Action

Finally, give your audience a call to action.  What do you expect them to do as a result of your talk? Where can they go to get further information?  In a work presentation, a simple, concrete step that your audience can adopt will further your cause –  visit our shop, sign up for a free trial, set up a meeting with key stakeholders.  In Brené Brown’s case, she’s made the case for us  to slow down and embrace who we are – “Because when we work from a place, that says, “I’m enough”, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us”.  By the end of his talk, Bryan Stevenson has built up a resonant talk that calls on us all to keep an eye on the prize, and hold on, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

 

For your next talk, how can SABA help you to develop a compelling message that results in action?

 

 

 

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One simple tool to help your next presentation or talk

FLeD Goals

What’s the first thing that you do when you’re asked to give a presentation? Do you spend weeks putting it off, and finally sit down the night before to pull it all together? Or maybe you want to whip out a blank piece of paper and start to scribble down your thoughts straight away? Or perhaps you open up Powerpoint and start working on your slides right away?   Well whichever approach you take, here’s a little tool to help you to cut down on the time that it takes you to prepare a presentation.   It’s a simple device that we call FLeD Goals.

Your FLeD goals should be the beginning of every presentation.   Before you start, sit and reflect for a moment on what you want your presentation to achieve. Think about your audience and what you want to give them in your talk.  When you know where you’re going, you’re far more likely to get there.

FLeD – F – Feel

What do you want your audience to Feel by the time you’ve finished your presentation?   Maybe you want them to feel reassured that they’re in the right hands – that you are the person to guide them through the problem that you’re addressing?  Or maybe it’s fear – fear of missing out – that if they don’t work with you, they’ll miss out on an opportunity?   Whatever you want your audience to feel – joy, sadness, nostalgia, disgust, admiration, surprise – just make sure that you leave them feeling something!

FLeD – L – Learn

What do you want your audience to Learn? This can be a tricky one.  After all, you’re an expert in your topic, and the temptation is always there to try to pass on everything that you know to your audience.   Instead, think about the number one thing that you want your audience to learn, and build your presentation around that.

FLeD – D – Do

What do you want them to Do? Hopefully your audience has learnt something new, and ideally you’ve changed what they’re feeling.  But what’s next?   What would you like them to Do now?  Your Do might be something simple – Like our Facebook page, visit our shop, sign up online for a free trial – or you might be looking for something bigger like a change in behaviour or a shift in attitude.  At the end of your presentation, what small step will you ask your audience to take to move towards that outcome?

Your FLeD Goals is a simple device that can really help you to focus on what you want your presentation to say. Try this the next time you’re asked to speak.  It will help you to put a better presentation together in less time.  Get in touch on Facebook – let us know how you get on!

 

 

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In a post-truth era, how can your message stand out?

post-truth

After two bruising political campaigns in the US and the UK in 2016, we’ve had plenty of opportunity to watch leaders and aspiring leaders in action as they tried to win public approval. The most successful political campaigns have been built on short, easily understood messages. But a message doesn’t work in a vacuum. We’ve been hearing lots about post-truth tactics, where showmanship and grandstanding have been the order of the day.

Does ‘post-truth’ really  just mean ‘truth+’

Watch this fiery exchange between alt-right journalist Milo Yiannopoulos and Cathy Newman of Channel Four, to understand how Yiannopoulos understands post-truth.  In his own words ‘Just telling the facts is no longer enough. You now have to be persuasive and charismatic and interesting.’

post-truth Milo Yiannapoulos Cathy Newman

Milo Yiannapoulos during his Channel 4 interview with Cathy Newman

What can you learn from post-truth tactics?

So how can you beat the post-truth brigade at their own game?  What if you’ve got an idea that you want to share, and it’s falling on deaf ears?  Without resorting to fabrication and falsehoods, how can you make sure that what you have to say gets listened to? Is there something to be learnt from the post-truth approach?

A persuasive presentation appeals to your audience’s needs and wants. Trump’s ‘Make America great again’ campaign slogan was aspirational, appealed to patriotism and tripped off the tongue. As ego-centric as Trump is, he made the voter the hero of his campaign.  He made sure to put his message in a context that resonated. Too many presenters just brain dump a series of facts, and forget about why the audience gave their time to turn up in the first place.

And do make sure to tell the audience why you’re there – what qualifies you to speak on this topic – but don’t labour the point. Give them just enough references that they understand your authority. We’re the selfie-obsessed generation, this presentation has to be all about the audience! Aristotle had it right when he talked about ethos, pathos and logos in a persuasive presentation.

post truth Hillary Clinton with selfie takers

Hillary Clinton with selfie takers during her US presidential campaign

In the immortal words of Albert Einstein – ‘Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.’  In a noisy world, only concise, clear messages are heard. When you frame them in a way that resonates, your message will stick with your audiences.

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Develop public opinion through the media

public opinion

As we’ve all seen, public understanding of an issue develops over time, often slowly, and in several stages. Compelling messaging will help you to connect with key audiences to shape public opinion on the cause that you work for and believe in.

public

But what does your audience know about your cause in the first place? We’ve adapted the Seven Stages of Public Opinion model (1) to give you some ideas for your next public campaign.

Dawning awareness

Are you raising an issue that no-one has heard of? Something that has not yet reached the public consciousness? To make your issue resonate with journalists and their audiences, it’s key that your message at this stage is simple, core and compact(2). Avoid the curse of knowledge and take the time to disseminate information to build public awareness.

Sense of urgency

This is when people realise that there is an issue and they start to develop an opinion on it. Making your message concrete can really help. In the business world, consider the case of Irish company, Sugru, developers of mouldable glue that turns into rubber. Apart from a small community of designers or makers, who cares, or even understands why they would want mouldable glue? Realising they were destined to remain a niche product if they failed to take action, Sugru made this video. Here they position their product for everyone – it’s a helping hand to fix annoying everyday problems that we all experience.

Discovering choices

This is when public opinion has started to develop. People listen to other points of view and now start to evaluate the choices that they can make around your issue. Think about case studies and stories to help you connect with your audiences. By the time people reach this stage, they’re clarifying their thinking, talking to their friends and starting to understand more fully what supporting you means to them. If they give up time or resource, what do they get in return? In our workshops, we’ll give you structures to help you to develop a persuasive argument.

Accepting an idea

People are more ready to commit to an idea in their minds than in the actions they take. You could ask people to do something public, such as ‘Like a Facebook page’, ‘Share a post’ helps them to commit to a point of view. Once people have made a choice or adopted a position, they’ll want to behave consistently with that position (3). The Rainforest Alliance followed up the viral buzz from their Follow the Frog video with action-led social campaigns with partners to help consumers commit to buying Fairtrade.

Making a responsible judgment

This is where you move people to the stage where they will take an action – Vote! Buy! Do something differently! Public opinion has been developed. Believe in what you do, and make sure your message resonates with the audiences you need to reach.

1) Yankelovich, D. (1992) How public opinion really works. New York: Fortune. Available from: http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1992/10/05/76926/index.htm

2) Heath, D. & Heath, C. (2007) Made to stick New York: Random House

3) Fazio, R. H, Blascovich, J. & O’Driscoll, D.M. (1992) On the Functional Value of Attitudes: The Influence of Accessible Attitudes on the Ease and Quality of Decision Making. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 388-401

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Nine questions for a successful media interview

Sarah Travers media interview

So you’ve been promoting your story on social media, sending out press releases, getting in touch with journalists and doing everything you can to make sure your organisation’s message is heard in the media. You really want to secure a media interview for your story. You have no budget for a PR agency, and you’re happy to take the task on yourself. You’ve just awarded yourself ‘top PR’ in your own mind and nipped out for a coffee to tell your friend in the next building all about your hard work. And when you get back to your desk, you have a message to return a journalist’s call – they want an interview. Props to you!! So what do you do next?

Here’s a list of nine questions to ask the journalist to help you prepare:

 

  1. Collect the basics – name, news organisation, tel contact, Twitter handle
  2. Tell me more about the story you’re working on. Are you approaching the story from any perspective?
  3. Who else are you interviewing?
  4. What’s the format – print, TV, radio, live, over the phone?
  5. What exactly do you need from me?
  6. What journalist will be conducting the interview?
  7. How long will the interview take?
  8. Do you have a deadline? Respect this! Journalists are under huge pressure to meet deadlines, help them out.
  9. Spell your name and organisation name – preferably email it!

When you’re working up your next campaign, careful preparation gives your media interview a greater chance of success. Print off this list to prepare your messaging for an interview that’s more interesting for the viewer, more helpful for the journalist and helps to promote your organisation better.