Stories Talk | Presentation Skills and Effective Storytelling
Regardless of the field of work, it is certain that at some point of our career we will be invited to present innovative ideas in order to promote certain products or services. As a successful presentation leads to good production and sales, it’s very important to know what is the ideal structure and strategy of such a presentation, the so-called pitching.
By Mia Kollia
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
#presentationskills #marketing #communication #success #business
Pitching an idea is actually an ability although this fact isn’t always widely understood. Many professionals believe that successful communication is a given if their idea is strong enough ("the product speaks for itself") or if they have great reputation ("I inspire confidence").
Unfortunately, the above is not enough.
The "product speaks for itself" approach carries many risks. When a product is highly innovative, consumers may have some difficulty in understanding its applications and features or even its potential place in the existing market.
Similarly, the "inspire confidence" approach, based solely on the professional reputation of an individual, may arouse initial interest, but without strategic communication that can convince the target audience, it risks getting stuck in the initial stage, failing to get to the level of implementation.
Two key questions that we need to be able to answer regarding an innovative idea are "why" and "how".
Communication with the “why” question at the forefront is expressed with arguments based on high ideals, deep purpose and even existential issues. It is necessary to explain in depth why our innovative idea needs to be implemented. Where did the idea come from? What needs of the public does it meet? What values is it based on and what does it serve? What will the customer get? How can an active community be created around the idea?
Communication centered at the "how" question aims to express arguments related to functionality, application, performance and implementation. They are often of a technical nature and should cover any possible questions of the target audience. What are the implementation stages? What is the production cost? What is the market position? How does functionality meet a certain need of a customer/consumer? How understandable is the mode of operation?
But how can we decide what to answer?
If we are successful in our initial communication and the process proceeds, inevitably in the long run, we will need to answer both categories of questions. But it is strategically important to choose how we will pitch and present the idea.
The Harvard Business Review, the renowned Harvard Business School magazine, sought to answer this strategic question by conducting a study published in the Strategic Management Journal in 2021.
For the needs of the research they created two separate groups: one consisted of novice investors and the other was a group of expert professionals. They showed both groups a presentation of an innovative idea in two different ways: a presentation focusing on "why" and one focusing on "how".
The team of the novice investors seemed to be 25% more motivated when the presentation of the idea was based on "why" while the team of experts showed 44% more interest in the idea when its presentation was based on "how".
The results of the first experiment were tested in a second experiment with new groups showing the same preferences. In both experiments, investment teams from the United States and Canada were used. The choice of the field of profession was made with the thought that every possible innovation, in order to be implemented, usually needs to be funded by investors.
The research supported the original hypothesis: an audience without specialised knowledge around the subject becomes more motivated when we base our presentation on abstract concepts such as ideals and values, while an audience of experts tends to support presentations that analyse the practical way, the applicability and functionality of our idea.
One possible explanation about why we notice this difference between these types of audiences is that an audience of beginners, in the absence of tools for evaluating the potential of an idea, can appreciate an analysis of why it is worth implementing, while an audience of experts focuses on functionality as they probably already have the knowledge to recognise the "why" of an idea.
Taking into account the results of the research, it is evident that the best practice of a successful pitching and presentation is the recognition of the audience that will listen to us and will evaluate us accordingly. The words we use, the flow we choose and the emotional reason as opposed to the language of numbers act as a catalyst in the final evaluation of an idea.