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What will your customer remember about your story?

tablet disconnectWhat’s the best way to ensure that your customer remembers what you tell her on that all-important sales call?

Recent research from James Bigelow and Amy Poremba at the University of Iowa* sheds some analytical light on this typically abstract topic. Here’s a hint:  For those of you who say, “I just want to have a conversation, ask questions and take some notes,” be prepared to be forgettable.

Bigelow and Poremba set up experiments to test the percentage of subjects who could recall visual, tactile, and auditory information in the short term (1 second to 32 seconds) and then over a longer period of time (same day, next day, and next week).  Subjects were presented with stimuli including short videos (visual), sound recordings (auditory), and everyday objects hidden in opaque boxes (tactile).  They were then tested to see whether they could recall those stimuli.

The results? In all cases visual and tactile stimuli were remembered longer and better than auditory ones.  Here’s what the data looked like for same day, next day, and next week accuracy.












What’s the message for marketing and sales professionals?  Don’t depend on your customer to remember your story based on what you SAY.  Instead, present your main points in compelling visuals, augmented by tangible 3D props whenever possible.

Want to learn more about how to build better visual and tactile elements into your sales conversations?  Then check out this video:

*Link to research here.





Presentation Pitfalls

Earlier this year, director and producer, Michael Bay, walked off the stage at Samsung’s press conference when his presentation failed to appear on screen.

John Travolta was recently all over the news for butchering  Idina Menzel’s name at the Oscars.*

And then there’s Huffington Post’s infamous tech fail mash-up, including some of the biggest names in technology.

But perhaps the best-loved and most colossal presentation disaster of all is from Anchorman, albeit fictional. Warning: explicit language in clip.

When otherwise great presenters let technical malfunctions stop them from delivering a powerful message, you know it can happen to anyone. Maybe it’s happened to you.

The problem is that people often use a crutch to get their point across – be it PowerPoint, a teleprompter, or other visual aid – which is understandable. But when you’re in front of an audience – whether it’s clients, customers or anyone else who matters – nothing should keep you from communicating what you’re there to say.

Instead of relying on pre-created visual helpers, own the story you want to tell – step out from behind the projector and have a conversation. In the end, it will make all the difference.


*Maybe this wasn’t a technology glitch, but if Travolta had learned her name prior to trying to read it on screen, he could have saved face. It sounds like Idina has forgiven him, though, so all is well again.


Bad things happen in the dark

We’ve said it so many times, it’s become a mantra at Corporate Visions. Turning out the lights and giving PowerPoint presentations is a bad idea. We’ve shown statistics, given examples, and written articles illustrating why delivering canned presentations in the dark is an ineffective communication and sales strategy. But this commercial – a great example of the power of visual communications, BTW – says it all. Just imagine what your audience is doing in the dark…watch.


Think of your Message as a Gift

By Tim Riesterer

Telling someone something that they didn’t know, about a problem or missed opportunity they didn’t know they had, has the potential to come across one of two ways.  You can either sound like a jerk who is challenging the prospect and calling their baby ugly. Or, you can be seen as someone providing a valuable piece of business intelligence and direction that will make their time spent with you worthwhile.

In the spirit of the holidays, I’d like to share this thought with you.  Great marketing and sales messaging is like giving a gift. Your goal during the holidays is to find someone that perfect present… something they could use, but don’t already have, and don’t expect.  The reaction you are hoping to hear is, “Oh this is perfect, I really need something like this, but would never have gotten it for myself. Thank you!”

When you develop and deliver a message to your prospect, you should be seeking a similar reaction. You add value by identifying unrecognized, or unknown, or under-appreciated needs, then showing the prospect why the needs are worth dealing with, and how your offering has been designed specifically to help meet those needs.

No gift is complete without a great presentation. Typically, you wouldn’t wrap your present in newspaper. You’d trim it with some fancy paper, ribbons and bows.  And possibly make a little production out of the delivery – all in an effort to make the moment as special and memorable as possible.

Same goes for a great message.  You can’t bury it in the same old, worn-out presentation models, or sales tools.  Make sure you wrap your message in a remarkable way that makes the delivery as impactful as the story.  And, just as homemade cards and wrappings are personal and meaningful; packaging your message in a whiteboard presentation has the same effect. Slick decks and brochures are pretty, but they look like they come from the store.  Putting in the extra effort to make the delivery look like a hand-made original will make a better, longer lasting impression.


Captivating Presentations…without PowerPoint



By Tim Riesterer, Corporate Visions

In September, we hosted our annual Sales and Marketing Messaging Conference in Chicago under the theme of “Breaking the Status Quo.” While there were a lot of excellent presentations that challenged our approaches to sales and marketing messages, there was one presentation that stretched us personally and professionally and has really stuck in my mind.

Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, delivered a keynote that could only be described as a mind-bending experience, not a presentation. I’ve never witnessed 400 senior business executives so emotionally engaged in a speech.

(When’s the last time you saw your colleagues singing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy in German – at the top of their lungs with huge hand gestures and giant facial expressions. Yeah, that happened, and people loved it.)

Zander convinced people to pack the front rows prior to starting his speech. In most conferences, it helps to sit in the front row to be able to read all of the bullet points in the deadly dense onslaught of slides. But, in Zander’s case, he didn’t use any slides. Being in the front row meant you were going to be “leaning into possibilities,” unlike the back row people who “observe, criticize and look for a quick getaway.”

Zander used his piano as an important prop to demonstrate how “one-buttock playing” can transform a dull, boring piece of music into a story that sucks you in and takes you on a magical journey. His challenge: How can we be one-buttock players when we engage people we lead?

Zander drew simple images on flip charts. Yes, he used whiteboard techniques to make key points memorable, showing the contrast between “downward spiral” thinking and conversations vs. “radiant possibilities.” Now, every time I have a conversation with someone I can visualize either the downward spiral or radiant possibility whiteboards, and make a conscious decision to change the dialogue to be more productive.


Throughout the keynote, Zander was on a secondary mission to disrupt status quo thinking about classical music. Since only about 3 percent of the population is comprised of die-hard fans, he used not only stories, musical examples and group sing-alongs to make a point about leadership and interpersonal communications, he also managed to convert more than a few folks to reconsider their stance on the symphony. Bravo, Ben Zander.

Here’s a clip of Ben Zander from a recent TED presentation that is well worth watching and will leave you wanting more.

Summary of the Visual Storytelling techniques used by Zander:

  • Stories – he embedded personal stories to “enroll” the audience, punctuate key points and connect with people’s emotions.
  • Dramas – he engaged the audience in sing-alongs, challenging the audience to repeat the song three times with more gusto to prove we hold back.
  • Whiteboard – his two flipchart visuals created memorable take-aways, and he didn’t display a single PowerPoint slide, even though there were 400 people in the room for two hours.
  • Props – in Zander’s case, a grand piano served as a prop for demonstrating how people can be more engaging in their presentation.