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.
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.
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. http://www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion.html
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.
By Lisa Cummings, Corporate Visions
I recently visited a train museum with my nieces. Amidst the relics, a laminated guide to hobo communications stood out. Hobos – the migratory, homeless vagabond workers of the early 20th century – used a set of symbols to communicate with each other. The guide caught my eye because so many things in the museum seemed obsolete and inefficient. Yet this sign highlighted a language of visual communication. Without smartphones or PowerPoint – heck, they couldn’t even circulate written messages on paper – hobos developed a way to tell each other the often life-saving information of where to go to get work and how to avoid danger. The symbols were meaningful, memorable, and simple.
Visual storytelling is not new. It’s what hieroglyphics were all about. Visuals have also exemplified many tribes and communities. Here’s a test. If you think of the hippie movement of the 60s and 70s, what pops into your mind? Peace signs, flowers, and maybe tie-died fabric, right? They’re all visual representations of a concept that would take a lot longer to describe with words alone.
Visuals bring clarity to words. Last year I went to France. I practiced my French enough to master short tourist conversations, but it was ultimately a picture that saved my life. What better way to communicate to any non-French speakers that they’re entering a room of high voltage danger? This picture was all I needed to stop me in my tracks.
The same concepts apply in business communications. Visuals or symbols and drawings can simplify concepts that seem complex in written form. And they can convey in a glance exactly what you’re trying to say. Imagine how much more powerful and memorable your stories would be to a prospect if you told them with a combination of words and pictures.
Want to learn more about how to communicate visually?
We’ve all heard the term “death by PowerPoint,” or worse, experienced it. It refers to the lack of interactivity and boredom engendered by the typical slide presentation. The term invokes an arresting image that reminds us that, if you want to engage your audience while standing out from your competitors, slides aren’t the answer.
In this post, we’ll look at five ways salespeople can boost performance using “visual storytelling” instead of slides. Whether using a whiteboard, a flip chart, the back of an envelope or a tablet PC via desktop sharing software, you can integrate the visual storytelling model into your existing sales methodology and apply the approach as a powerful differentiator in competitive and complex selling environments.
Five Ways to Tell Your Story Visually
1. Develop a Powerful Whiteboard “Story” Instead of Bullet Points
Your presentation should be much more than just a list of bullets – it should be a compelling visual narrative designed to showcase your products and services and how they deliver unique value. For example, you could create a story about a tragic hero (an anonymous customer) who overcomes adversity (the current situation) to attain ultimate glory (the desired state, achieved uniquely by your solution/service).
The story also needs to be visually intriguing, with humorous iconography, and should have a script that goes along with each step. The whiteboard story should include planned “interaction points” where you’ll engage with the customer to ensure a two-way dialogue. Stay away from features and benefits. Instead, ask and help answer these specific questions: what’s the impact of sticking with the status quo, and what’s the value of making a change?
2. Stick Figures are More Powerful than Photography
One way people have attempted to fix the PowerPoint problem is by using large photographs and metaphorical imagery with just a few words on the slides. While this may help make a keynote speech more interesting, it doesn’t advance the cause in a sales cycle, make abstract ideas more concrete, or make complex concepts simpler.
Stick figures and symbols get it done – boxes, circles, arrows, dollar signs…stuff you can draw. Even more importantly, these hand-drawn visuals can be redrawn by your prospects after you leave the room. You want your story to “walk the halls” in your absence, right? You want your prospect to feel smarter and more empowered to promote your story? Well then, give them the gift of a simple story and visual that helps them understand and react, as well as own and distribute.
3. Visual Storytellers are More Consultative
With the visual storytelling approach, it’s essential that you immerse yourself in the content. Prospects perceive salespeople with a clicker in their hand as “PowerPoint jockeys.” You are telling a story that someone else created. A visual story that you draw, and explain along the way, gives you the credibility. It confers the knowledge and expertise to you, not the marketing department that created the pretty slides.
In a world where every salesperson wants to appear as a trusted advisor or practice consultative selling, visual storytellers are seen as adding more value, facilitating more engagement, and delivering insight and expertise. Storytellers get the room to think about their challenges and opportunities in a fresh and interactive way. Turning on the lights and taking a pen in your hand, as opposed to closing the shades and standing in the shadows of the LCD panel, create an entirely different perception of you and the role you are playing in the room.
4. Create a Sticky Virtual Experience
If you’re part of an inside sales team, or spend much of your sales cycle dealing with prospects over the Web and on the phone, visual storytelling can create a huge point of differentiation. Just because you aren’t face-to-face with the customer doesn’t mean you can’t use whiteboarding techniques.
Using simple Web conferencing software and an inexpensive pen tablet, you can easily simulate a full whiteboarding experience. This can be the difference between creating a remarkable and memorable sales experience, and sounding and looking like everyone else.
We’ve found that while 50 percent of WebEx viewers intermittently leave a remotely shared PowerPoint presentation to access other applications, the attrition rate is less than 10 percent using the visual storytelling approach.
5. A Whiteboarding Methodology
Great visual stories don’t happen spontaneously. They are pre-built based on the different moments of truth in the customer buying cycle. At the beginning, you need to answer the foremost question in the prospect’s mind: why should I change? You need a whiteboard that helps them see why their status quo isn’t safe and why they need to consider doing something different.
The next question you need to answer is: why you? For that you need a visual story that clearly delineates your differences and strengths in contrast to the status quo and the competitive alternatives. Finally, you need to address the question: why now? That calls for a visual story that presents the business case and a relevant example of how someone achieved their desired outcomes and realized the projected value.
Each of these is a different, complementary whiteboard that builds on the previous one and develops your story along the decision-making path.
Having a good sales process is important, but having something truly provocative to say when you actually interact is essential. Visual storytelling is the fuel that powers your sales process engine.
Close up of ocean waves washing over rocks. Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings” score wafting in the background. Fade to laundry hanging on clothesline, seagull flying over house perched on cliff. Fade to fishing boat, man petting dog nearby. Fade to family photo, voiceover: “You will give the people an idea to strive toward.” Fade to boy running through field, hint of red cape trailing behind. Fade to hitchhiker on a mountain road. Fade to birds-eye view of a farm field. Voiceover: “In time, they will join you in the sun.” Fade to butterfly on chain. Voiceover: “In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” Fade to boy with red cape. Fade to text, “Man of Steel.” Fade to caped man flying at mach-speed through the clouds.
Most of you probably started skimming by the third line of that paragraph. Ninety percent of you didn’t make it to the end. We’re lucky if you’re even reading this.
We’ve just described a trailer for the yet-to-be-released Superman movie. Now watch this…
That’s the power of video. Stimulate the senses and the decision-making part of the brain by using video or visual storytelling in your marketing content.
Thanks to Corporate Visions Global Accounts Manager Ted Ergo for the idea for this post.
By Rebecca Blouin, Davies Murphy Group
I spent last Wednesday and Thursday live blogging from Corporate Visions’ Marketing and Sales Messaging Conference, “Break the Status Quo Barrier” in Chicago. Perched on the ballroom balcony with my fellow blogger, high above the heads of the 400 attendees, we looked much like “The Muppet Show’s” Statler and Waldorf, gazing down with a critical eye and plenty to say (but considerably better groomed hair). After 17 presentations, two bran muffins eaten hastily at the start of every morning, and dinner with a tarpon, these are the things that have stuck with me.
Never judge a conductor by his cover.
Though deep down I trusted the wisdom of Corporate Visions’ conference organizers, I couldn’t imagine how Ben Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, could possibly keep the attention of senior-level marketing and salespeople for two entire hours. Does a conductor a good speaker make?
Yes. That conductor made a phenomenal speaker. I don’t exaggerate when I say that Ben was one of the best – if not the best – speakers I have ever seen. And I can safely state that from the standing ovation, shining eyes, and line of people waiting to have their Ben Zander books autographed, the attendees agree.
Ben demonstrated to me that you don’t need a presentation, notes or even a stage to thoroughly engross an audience. Your message can be powerfully delivered with two white boards, a few pens, a piano (optional), and some thoughtful, gripping stories. And a good dose of humor and fiery passion for what you do is also helpful.
Getting marketing and sales to work in sync is “wicked hard.”*
*Courtesy of Kevin Joyce, chief sales and marketing officer, Miranda Technologies
Nineteen of the best and brightest leaders in marketing and sales regaled us with case studies, stories, overviews and anecdotes about their struggles with unifying marketing and sales around a consistent set of effective messages and materials. One of their main messages? It’s really hard work. Their ultimate message? With hard work, a partner and a plan, it’s entirely possible and will pay dividends in the end.
Self-deprecation can be charming in a presentation.
I can imagine that when you’ve reached the pinnacle of corporate success – be it a senior-most position or founding a profitable company – it might be difficult to resist the glow of success from leading you into pontification and self-congratulation. But to a person, the presenters laid bare their struggles and lessons learned and flew their geek flags proudly (Tim Riesterer in particular) to make their points and tell their stories to help others. That style is not only in line with Corporate Visions’ it’s-all-about-you-not-me approach, but it’s also very effective.
And no one embodied this as much as Billy Beane. With a bestselling book and award-winning movie based on your life, it would be easy to swagger like John Travolta in white polyester. But Billy humbly – and humorously – relayed the decisions he made to get where he is and praised the people who helped him get there. His self-deprecation had even the non-baseball lovers eating out of the palm of his (I probably high-fived Brad Pitt with this) hand.
Breaking the status quo takes a lot of chutzpah.
Inevitably when you take the road less traveled by, there are going to be naysayers pointing out the recklessness of that decision. What impressed me most about these market leaders was how they boldly defined a path, put a stake in the ground and heard – but didn’t listen to – the people who told them they were headed the wrong way. Several of the presentations included a story with the words “it was at this point we knew we were all-in.”
Billy Beane might have said it best with the quote he said served as a mantra for him and his team as they tried to redefine how to create a winning baseball team.
“The road to truth is long, and lined the entire way with annoying bastards.” Alexander Jablokov
Though fun for a picture, putting your arm around a cardboard cutout Brad Pitt is not as good as the real thing.
Or so I imagine…