Where Great Content Goes To Die

Content marketers know: great content marketing gains customers’ interest. Later, when it’s time for Sales to meet customers, how do you arm them — with PowerPoint?

Most marketers answer, yes. Too bad.

PowerPoint presentations may create the illusion that communications are taking place. But most PowerPoint presentations are simply forgotten. They don’t help customers make buying decisions.

New research on visual formats from Tim Riesterer details the problems with PowerPoint. The author of Conversations That Win The Complex Sale, he presented recently at the BMA 2014 Conference.

People use PowerPoint because audiences retain visual stories better. In presentations without visuals, “people only recall 10% of what you said, 2 days later,” he said. “Associate a visual to escalate the story to 65% recall.”

But not all visual formats are created equal.

Research has proven that you have more brain activity going on when you sleep than when you watch TV,” Riesterer asserts. “And PowerPoint is akin to TV.”

With help from researcher Zak Tormala, Riesterer tested the effectiveness of visual presentation formats. They tested 2 types of PowerPoints (conventional and Zen) and hand-drawn whiteboard pictures.

About 700 users heard the identical voiceover content but with 3 different visual formats. They scored each format for recall, engagement, credibility, quality, persuasion, and impact of each.

Hand-drawn pictures on a whiteboard beat both types of PowerPoint. “Sales needs a marker, not a clicker, to be seen as a partner,” Riesterer said.

During presentations, audiences naturally are most engaged at the beginning and the end.  So they recall 70% of the beginning and 100% of the end.

Between the beginning and the end of a presentation, an audience’s attention wanes. They retain only 20% of the middle part. Oops. That’s where most marketers put the “meat” of a presentation.

Marketers may make the problem even worse by wasting the opening — dictating that “brand slides” be shown to start company presentations.

That’s why most companies’ PowerPoint presentations start exactly the same way. The first slides are all about our company, our revenue, our employees, a map of the world with our locations, our brand mission statement, our history of innovations, and the logos of our world-class clients.

Sound familiar?

The problem is, with “we, we, we, we, we,” the first 5 slides lose the audience. Right when they were ready to retain 70% of what you said.

Riesterer draws a sagging, hammock-shaped line on the whiteboard to trace the arc of audience recall. Attention to a presentation starts high at 70% at the beginning, wanes to 20% in the middle, and rises to 100%.  “The hammock” in the middle is when audiences go to sleep.

So how can you improve your scripted presentations?

  • Start with a “hot opening.” Tell customers something they didn’t know — about a problem or opportunity they didn’t know they had (a lesson from The Challenger Sale.)
  • Build to a “really hot close,” so people recall and retell your story after they leave the room.
  • In between, “grab attention with spikes” of conversation and interaction to draw people in.

Clearly, it’s time to ditch the PowerPoint!

Instead, help Sales learn to draw simple pictures on a whiteboard or easel. You’ll increase presentation recall, engagement, credibility, quality, persuasion and impact.

Powerful presentations help drive your content marketing all the way home – to the sale.

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