They are terrifying. They are brutal. They are straight up ugly. These creatures.

You did not see them coming. They came from nowhere, but now they are here to stay. They settled happily, violating the boundaries of your household. Till this day, they lurk in the darkness, only occasionally exposing themselves to the light.

You did not know how to resist them. How to fight. But worry no more.

Lucky for you, there is FreshLoo 3000. Newest on the market. It’s cutting edge with a-just-discovered active formula. A toilet cleaner.

You and your family are saved from the evil bacteria.

If you ever wondered why marketers are so vividly imaginative with these commercials, keep reading.

Change is visual

In a 2012 book The Heart of Change, John Kotter tried to answer a simple question: what makes people change?

His studies are based on cases of big companies and how they dealt with organizational change. How these companies worked with their employees to go through a transition period? How they dealt with difficulties of getting people on board for corporate initiatives? What makes people change their mind? Their opinion? Their point of view? (OK, I agree, It’s more than one question, but you get the point.)

These studies brought some interesting conclusions. But let’s see what you think first…

How do you think then? What is the process to make people change their mind? Consider the below options:

  1. Analyze -> Think -> Change or…
  2. Think -> Analyze -> Change

Make your guess. Ready?

None of the above (that was evil, I know.)

However it feels logical. These answers play into one of our most deeply rooted assumption – that we, humans – are rational.

Turns out we are not. What is the real process then? It has nothing to do with data, analysis or side by side comparisons. It’s not analytical. In fact, quite the opposite. The actual process for changing is:

See -> Feel -> Change

First we see something with our eyes. Once we saw it, it becomes much easier to visualize, to feel how it would be to change. Then the change comes. And then of course you rationalize it. You come up with reasons why it is a good thing. You do the pros/cons analysis. But you have already made up your mind.

How they sell you cars

Think of car salesman. They practically make their living by taking advantage of this process.

You go to the dealership. You see the car. From that point everything the sales guy wants, is to put you inside and do the test drive. Why?

To help you feel how it would be to own it.  It’s no coincidence that sales guy is armed with perfectly tailored stories that will help you to see and feel how it would be to drive the car everyday.

Your neighbor being jealous. The respect you will get at work. The admiration and love of your family as you drive them around in your new vehicle. You will hear all that, visualizing how it would be.

You saw the car, now you are feeling how positively the change would affect you. Next step is to buy to fulfill that vision. To change.

Let’s take this back to our field – speaking to others. Your presentation will always change the audience in some way. Whether you speak to persuade, inspire, sell or even to take action on a simple idea, you will need to change their minds, opinions or points of view.

This won’t work without visual support.

How to nail your next presentation

Follow the See > Feel process to change how your audience thinks. If you think that your words alone will suffice – think again. Consider the toilet cleaner commercial again. Nobody would ever buy a product from this category if ads featured data, facts or excel spreadsheets.

We act (as the marketers intended) only when we have seen and felt the impact. Think like a commercial creator.

What visuals can you use to help the audience see your point of view?

Draw it!

I know, it’s hard to imagine – a life without slides. But I trust in you. You can do it.

Pick up a pen and draw a simple picture consisting of lines, shapes or doodles. Whatever works. It does not have to be pretty. It has to be BIG. Take your big idea and create a big picture that makes it easier for the audience to see… the big picture. You can then fill in the details with your words, but constantly referring to the visual you created.

Take pen and paper and ask yourself, how can you put your idea into a simple picture to help them see the big picture? Start drawing.

During your presentation, recreate that visual  on the whiteboard or flip chart available. This alone will grab their attention. After all, the expected you use slides… Which brings us to the second point.

Slides will do too, but…

Not any slides! Bring in high quality, big picture slides. Leave bullet points at home.

There is a simple test to find out if your slides are big-picture enough. Ask yourself this question: If you would sent the deck to the participants today, without them seeing your talk, or any kind of speaker notes – would they be able to make sense of it?

If the answer is yes, then it is not good enough. Yes, you read it right. The goal of the slides is not the tell the story, but to support the speaker. If the slides alone can tell your story then why the audience should waste their time listening to you? Just send them the slides and cancel the presentation. 

But that’s not what you want.

How can you create your slides so that they help the audience to feel the change you are proposing, without giving away the details or stealing attention from you?

What about the handouts?

Is the room too big for everyone to see your flip chart and to draw in real-time? No technical equipment available? Bring in the handouts.

Don’t make the mistake of offering printed text as a handout. Would you like them to read that instead of focusing on you?

Best handouts are a combination of two things. The visual that can immediately help the audience to understand your big idea and the note space that they can use to add their own understanding. The more room you leave for them to expand on your visual or create their own the more they remember at the end.

Make handouts an engaging and creative experience. Less text, more visuals, more space for note-taking to fully take advantage of the see -> feel -> change process.

Wrapping it up

We already talked about the fact that the audience is not in your head. They don’t know your big idea. They might not grasp the big concept immediately, only hearing it once.

When trying to persuade, inspire, sell or change audience’s mind in any way you cannot rely on your words alone. Instead help them to see the big concept, idea or problem you are discussing. Draw it, use big-picture slides or a creative handout.

Help them to see, feel and change their point of view. Naturally to the one you are promoting…

Now I want to know from you:

  • Which of the above methods do you prefer?
  • What gives you best results when presenting?

Leave a comment now.

Wojciech is a trainer, teacher and life-long learner on the topic of effective communication. He believes that speaking clearly, effectively and with confidence is essential to our success and taking advantage of all life’s opportunities. READ MORE
  • My favorite question at the beginning of classes is “Are you going to send us via email the slides?” 🙂
    I am great fun of visualization eg your asking your audience to close their eyes and imagine something – as it help them to experience the feeling without going outside the classroom.

    Would you be able to say a few more words about whiping up emotions?