January 13, 2010

Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds

By Heather Baldwin

Think you need at least half an hour to persuade your client to buy your product or service? Think again, says Milo Frank, author of How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less. If done right, a 30-second presentation can be far more compelling than an hour of PowerPoint slides. Here’s an example:

Frank was once approached by a representative from a charitable organization in Los Angeles. “Imagine,” the man urged Frank, “that you are alone and starving. You’re on a cement street surrounded by cement buildings. The buildings have no doors and no windows. The street is endless. There’s no hope. That’s what a lost or abandoned pet faces when it is turned loose in the city.” The presentation lasted less than a minute and Frank couldn’t reach his checkbook fast enough. Want to craft an equally compelling presentation? Just include the following elements, says Frank:

Imagery. You want your listener to “see” as well as hear what you’re saying, so choose words that help the audience visualize your message. Frank once heard a flight attendant use this technique to great effect. Rather than read passengers the standard line about staying seated until the aircraft comes to a halt, she said, “If you’d like to avoid the embarrassment of falling down in the aisle, please keep your seat belts fastened until the plane comes to a complete stop.” Everyone could “see” what she said, got a laugh out of it – and most importantly, stayed seated.

Clarity. Use simple, clear language to state your case. Big words and complex sentences don’t impress, they confuse. Frank recalls one telephone company executive whose presentation included this sentence: “Specialized consumers duplicating terminal equipment add to operating costs.” The translation: You’re going to pay more money for your telephone service if non-phone companies duplicate existing equipment. That, says, Frank, he could understand.

Personalization. Use a personal story to illustrate your point and your message will be far more compelling. One AT&T executive’s presentation was a vague, generic discussion about how AT&T cares for its customers and prides itself on its service. Lifeless, until he substituted for those generalities a personal story about his young son accidentally setting a fire in his garage and an AT&T operator who got a fire truck there within minutes.

Emotional Appeal. The most effective messages reach the heart of the listener. The homeless pet advocate’s presentation is a great example. Frank also tells of a would-be entrepreneur who raised funds for her business by drawing parallels between her situation and that of a potential financial backer when he was first starting out. Her 30-second presentation concluded with, “You probably remember someone who helped make your dreams come true. I need your help to make my dreams come true.” She got the funding.