I love Netflix’s posters for the resurrected series Arrested Development because they do a great job of showing how you can convey a complicated idea–or in this case a character–with a simple image. Fans of the series will immediately recognize the posters for each of their favorite characters.
You may not be able to find an appropriate way to work a pair of Daisy Dukes into your presentations, but anchoring your ideas with clever images is an incredibly effective strategy. For one thing, images are much more memorable than words themselves. Audience members will remember a picture you show them much longer than they’ll remember any of your bullet points.
But images also allow you to connect with an audience’s emotions in a way that’s difficult to do with words alone. Arrested Development fans are likely to react to these posters in several ways. First, they’ll laugh. They’ll remember how much they love the show. Then they’ll enjoy feeling clever for understanding the references in the pictures.
If you can accomplish any of these things in your own presentations you’re doing great. Of course your images need to be relevant (and appropriate!) to your message. And they need to look good, which can be a lot of work. But the payoff can be huge. People love to be entertained, and they love the accomplishment they feel when they have to make a little effort to figure something out. Human beings are born problem solvers, and who doesn’t like to feel smart? Even better, a live audience will transfer their good feelings to you as the speaker and be more likely to be persuaded by your ideas.
Instead of just loving your images, they may love you.
When people think of presentation failures they tend to think of things going unexpectedly awry. Dead projectors. Missed flights. Wardrobe malfunctions. Really thirsty politicians. But some presentations are disasters even when they go precisely as planned.
I’ve been holding on to this video of the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch for a while now because it’s just so hard to understand what their marketing team was thinking. My best guess is that they finally decided they’d do something other than just copy Apple. Instead of putting together a streamlined launch presentation, they’d put on a show. With skits!
The video above is the full 50 minute event. I wasn’t having any luck getting it to start playing at my favorite bit, the Drunk Bridesmaid number, so fast-forward to the 38 minute mark if you don’t have the time or the stomach for the whole thing. As many others have pointed out, it’s at least a little sexist. But to me the bigger issue is that they seem to have lost track of why they’re putting on a show in the first place. Sure, you want to entertain your audience so they enjoy themselves and keep paying attention. But what’s important here is selling phones, not Broadway-level production values.
As you put together your presentations, keep in mind what you want to accomplish. Remember that all the pieces of your presentation (your slides, jokes, stories, musical numbers) are there to support your message. They should never distract from or overwhelm it.
Are drunk bridesmaids going to help you sell phones to women? Probably not.
Most presentations rely on logical arguments to try to persuade an audience–and that’s one of the reasons that so many of them fail. Charts, facts and figures tend to bore an audience and make them tune out. Making an emotional connection, on the other hand, is much more likely to be effective. It’s something that every speaker should try to include in their presentations.
When it comes creating advertising–which is really just another presentation format–Apple is the undisputed master at making people feel that they need something, even if it’s just a smaller version of something they already own. There’s a lot that any presenter can learn from how they work their magic to create that kind of desire.
Here’s a great example of how Apple deploys emotional content to sell its products. They don’t use any of the new iPad Mini’s specifications in order to make you want the new toy. This ad don’t even use any words other than the product’s name. Instead, Apple appeals to nostalgia with the childhood ritual of learning to play “Heart and Soul” on the piano, using the size difference between the two iPads to suggest a child playing along with an adult. Watching the piece for the first time during the keynote event literally gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, even though I’ve never played the piano.