It makes sense that the more ‘sticky’ you can make key information the more your audience will take away as a result – and the better the return on your investment.
When it comes to making a business case for your next meeting or event, convincing the budget holders that you can power your messages home could swing their decision in your favour. And what follows could be just what you need to make your case.
“Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.”
We are all inundated with information throughout the day, whether it’s delivered by voices on our radios and televisions, printed in newspapers and magazines or appearing in brightly shining letters by email or text. To offer some sense of the scale of the problem, it has been estimated that one week’s worth of the New York Times newspaper contains more information than an average 18th century person would have come across in their lifetime. In other words, our modern- day communications represent a sensory overload. This being the case, how can we be sure that the information we deliver at our big customer-facing meetings and events is getting through?
One possible answer is so simple it’s child’s play. Just tell them a story.
In 2007, brothers Dan and Chip Heath wrote a bestselling ‘how to’ book on communicating memorable information (Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die). According to the authors, memorable information needs to be:
Limited to the essentials
Delivered in a novel or surprising way (without gimmicks)
So it’s reassuringly clear and vivid
Factual (but without too many numbers) and resonating with things we already know and believe
Tapping into strong feelings such as joy, surprise, pride
With a narrative flow you could easily re-tell to others
ADVICE #1 IF YOU CAN, TELL THEM A STORY
The ‘tell them a story’ advice comes up time and again. American professor and viral marketing researcher Jonah Berger claims that stories are our way ‘of making sense of things where we don’t have facts. People will talk about a product … if it’s part of a broader narrative’. (Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger, 2013). A good story is one of the six drivers that he claims will help information go ‘viral’, along with the practical value of the message and the strength of the emotion it arouses. The nature of the emotion is important, though, as highly ‘amusing’ or ‘surprising’ messages will grab the reader more than those that raise levels of frustration or doubt. In fact, in a study of the emotional triggers that make visual content go viral, web marketing champions Moz discovered that amusement topped them all.
ADVICE #2 USE HUMOUR WHERE POSSIBLE
Marketing agency Crimson Marketing explains the secrets to contagious content through an info-graphic and therefore practice what they later preach, ie, presenting information ‘visually’ (as images or video) makes it significantly more likely to be read and absorbed. (How to make content contagious: 6 Insider Secrets Infographic, Crimson Marketing 2014).
ADVICE #3 USE VISUALS AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
They go on to explain that information that is practically useful, interesting and surprising is shared more frequently as it makes the sharer look good. Headlines are also critically important as while 80% of people (on average) would read a headline only 20% would go on to read the main article. So say as much as you can up front!
ADVICE #4 SPEND TIME ON YOUR HEADLINES
How else can we put all this excellent advice to practical use?
Marketing guru Derek Halpern provides a possibly useful steer on turning these insights into actions on his Social Triggers website/blog (socialtriggers.com/craft-contagious-content). If you want information to stick, he recommends that you focus on delivering ‘practically useful content that activates high arousal emotions’ and, most importantly, give them somewhere to direct that emotion. The high arousal emotions he suggests to aim for are: awe, anger, anxiety, fear, joy, lust and surprise – claiming highly charged negative emotions are as likely to ‘work’ as positive ones. (If this sounds unlikely, imagine a headline that said ‘Sharing taxis linked to Ebola’. Would you sit up and pay attention? Thought so). Therefore to really hit home, try and rewrite the key messages in any presentation material in such a way that they provoke emotion. Even if it increases your word count and takes longer to deliver you’ll be increasing the chance of hitting your target audience right between the ears.
ADVICE #5 APPEAL TO THE AUDIENCE’S EMOTIONS
Once you have wrapped the information up appropriately the vital fi nal step is to give clear instructions on what to do with it. According to Halpern this is the bit we’re generally not so good at, and yet it makes sense that giving people explicit instructions on the next steps will make it easier for us to build relationships with them. The same lessons are offered by speakers who have delivered TED talks, which are almost master classes in presenting engaging and memorable content in 18 minutes or less. In a round-up of advice for new speakers June Cohen, Executive Producer of TED Media, advises us to ‘Tell a story; take the audience on a journey with you’, while Gordon Kangas, founder of business consultancy Fluent Presentations, recommends having a ‘clear goal about how you want to change your audience by the end of your presentation’.
ADVICE #6 BE CLEAR ON WHAT YOU WANT THE AUDIENCE TO DO WITH YOUR INFORMATION
So, what are you taking away from all of this?
This article came from out Industry Report 2017. To get your copy which includes all our research articles, click here.