Boost Your Productivity by Recycling Your Rhetoric

13-year-old Lilith Platt, who founded Lilly’s Plastic Cleanup, is a perfect role model for Earth Day. She estimates that she has collected over 200,000 pieces of garbage since her movement started. As Lilly put it, “A lot of people just think it’s convenient.”

One of the key initiatives of Earth Day is to protect the environment by recycling. Recycling is also a common business practice intended to increase productivity and reduce time and costs—music to the ears of senior management, boards, and shareholders. To achieve these benefits, businesses recycle messages, slogans, products, services, equipment, furniture, office supplies, and, of particular interest to this blog, slide shows.

The latter usually results in what is known as “The Corporate Deck,” a set of slides intended to present a consistent and uniform description of a company and its products and/or services to any audience. All well and good from a time and cost savings standpoint, but less than effective in engaging diverse audiences. Granted, message consistency is important, so certain slides must be recycled, but the dual danger is that some of the material in the deck is not relevant to some audiences, or that some audience’s interests are not addressed. One size does not fit all.

The Suasive Methodology offers a three-step solution to deal with the dual danger: Contextualization, Structure, and Customization.

  1. Contextualize

Two of the most common audience complaints about presentations are: “What’s the point?” and “Why should I care?” each a negative reaction to a story that has no focus and no benefit to the audience. The equivalent of salespeople hawking features without benefits.

To meet that challenge, we offer the Suasive FrameForm—a simple tool that enables you to set the context of your presentation by preempting those two challenging questions. We call the missing point in the first question, “Point B,” or the point to which you want to move your audience. It’s called Point B because it requires you to analyze your audience at the start of your presentation, Point A, and what it will take to move them to your Call to Action, your Point B. That journey is your story.

A key element in your audience analysis is why the audience should care about your subject, or the benefit to them. We call the benefit a “WIIFY” which stands for “What’s in it for you?”—a variation of the common axiom “What’s in it for me?” The shift in the ultimate word to “you” is intentional. “You” identifies the correct recipient of the benefit, shifting the focus from the presenter to your audience.

By filling in the FrameForm at the start of your story development process, you can decide what you need to keep in and—most important in these days of short attention spans—what to leave out. The result is a highly relevant version of the Corporate Deck.

Then, to assure that each presentation is targeted to each audience, begin the development of each presentation with a new (refillable) Suasive FrameForm. Recycling on steroids.

  1. Flow Structure

The deck must also have a clear through line of logic that is relevant to your individual audience. To meet that challenge, use a Flow Structure—a rhetorical template that organizes the individual parts of your presentation into a logical flow. A Flow Structure plays a role in recycling your presentation by effectively reshaping your original message to fit a new audience.

For instance, a startup company seeking financing ordinarily presents to several venture capital firms. Some of those firms are new to the company and some may have invested in an early round. Here, too, one size does not fit all. The startup company cannot give the same pitch to both types of firms.

That’s where Flow Structures come in. Two of the most frequently used are:

  • Opportunity/Leverage: This structure begins by describing an unmet need and a large market opportunity and then moves on to describe how the startup’s product or service can leverage the opportunity for growth or profit. This option is best for new investors because it begins with the upside (just what every investor wants to know) before diving into the details of the product or service, making the latter meaningful.
  • Form/Function: This structure organizes a presentation around a central business concept, then shows different ways that the concept can expand into new lines of business. The razor/blades concept. This option is best for existing investors because it dives deep into the product or service that is already familiar to them and then moves on to expanding the initial offering into new revenue streams.

You’ll find ten more Flow Structures along with many examples from public and private company presentations in the new edition of Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story and Designing Your Slides.

  1. Customize

Lastly, you can customize your story by inserting verbal content in the form of words, phrases, stories, and other materials by using any of the following four external linkages:

  • Direct References: Address the members of your audience by name; a task greatly simplified in these days of virtual presentations—just look at the identification bar at the bottom of each participant’s image.
  • Mutual references: Refer to a person, a company, or an organization relevant to both you and your audience. You are pitching your services to Company A and you could describe the work you did for Company B, which has a close business alliance with Company A; or the work you did for Company C, whose CEO sits on the board of Company A.
  • Contemporize: Find current events that affect the sector or vertical of your audience—ideally events that occur on the very same day as your presentation.
  • Localize: Refer to information about the city or state in which your presentation is held and relates to your message. For example, you can talk about a particular client or customer of yours located in the same city and then go on to illustrate the benefits your company provided to that client.

Please note that these external linkages are only spoken in your narrative and do not appear on the slides.

Bottom line, by all means continue to use your Corporate Deck but make it meaningful by establishing an overarching Context, a clear Flow Structure, and Customize your narrative. This will give you a double benefit: increase both productivity and audience engagement.

The perfect way to recycle. Happy Earth Day!