Which presentation do you remember?

PowerPoint overload! We get it at every conference or big meeting. PowerPoint is a staple of podium-based speeches that fill the day. What a great environment to evaluate what works and what doesn’t work.

While at the Corporate Executive Board’s Sales and Marketing Summit this week I had exactly that opportunity. This event offers a great balance — time for networking and interacting intertwined with a lot of content-rich presentations. All the information is based on world-class research conducted with top-performing companies all over the world.

This organization also does an amazing job preparing speakers to ensure everyone has the right message and is prepared to connect with the audience. Even outside vendors who sponsor the event and speak are required to go through multiple preparatory meetings. The competition should be fierce to pick a top contender for best presentation.

My research was not very scientific, but I did ask colleagues to tell me the most memorable speaker. Multiple times, they mentioned the same story — about sheep. The presenter put a picture up of two sheep on the screen and began talking about cold nights in a small town in Iowa and how people might take short cuts to ensure they felt warm and cozy. It was about this time that many audience members started to blush a little. Was this headed towards an off color joke about a farmer who was a little too close to his sheep?

It was about that time that the word cloning appeared over the top of the sheep. He was talking about cloning the same presentation over and over again just to get it done and not taking the time to customize it to the needs of the audience.

There were likely five percent of audience members who did not appreciate that the story started down what seemed an off-color path. But, the humor grabbed the audience and made many remember the point. A sales presentation cannot just be copied one after another. It has to connect with the intended listeners. This presentation did just that and encouraged people to retell the story.

Of all the amazing things everyone learned at this conference, the sheep story was top-of-mind. Stories give the facts and stats a landing place. The quick, humorous story opened up the audience and allowed the speaker to insert a memorable lesson.

Take a look at your sales presentations. Do you need a few farm animals? I say that metaphorically, of course. Do you need a better story to ensure people remember what you say?

photo by Linda N.

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