The medium is the message: your slides vs. your message.

The medium is the message.

I have been to more than a few presentations where the presenter’s slides were undermining their message.  Like a presentation about a simple solution to a customer’s problem.  And then using slides that are so full of text, images, charts and graphs that they scream complexity at the audience.  Like a presentation about the advantages of thoughtful design where the slides aren’t thoughtfully designed.

Presenting an exciting and new innovation?  Then your slides have to look exciting and new (not just those words on the slides).  Talking about efficiency? The slides need to look efficient.  In fact, the whole presentation needs to be efficient. Your visuals can be message amplifiers, message killers or just neutral.

Using visuals that resonate with and amplify your message is all part of designing a memorable presentation.  Presentation design is about creating a positive, memorable audience experience. Everything you say or show needs to help your audience understand and remember your message.  If your slides are telling the opposite message to what you are trying to convey, that is confusing.  And confusing is never memorable.

Maybe Marshall McLuhan was right even about presentations,  the medium is the message.


Joe Pops


Thanks Gary for the idea.

The less than helpful metaphor: The sales doctor and customer patient.

Pain points, a lot of salespeople (and sales training) use this metaphor. The metaphor assumes your potential customer is in pain, has some urgent problem that needs solving. And that you are the “doctor” who can help them.  The problem with this metaphor is that it is not true, it doesn’t really apply.

It’s pretty rare that a potential customer is in an urgent situation (is in “pain”).  I just worked on an emergency equipment replacement project that took a year to conclude.  They were not in pain, but they realized they were going to face some big problems in the future if they didn’t replace the piece of equipment as soon as they could.  It was an emergency because it wasn’t budgeted for and the budgeting process would have added a lot of time to the replacement process.

According to business consultant Andy Raskin, there is a better way to look at potential customers (Pitch stakes not pain).   You look at them from a What’s at stake? perspective.  What’s at stake if they do, or do not, purchase the new technology or service?  What’s at stake for them if they wait until next year’s budget?

As Andy Raskin advises, your presentations should be focused on two future outcomes “one that your audience wants, and one that your audiences fears”. What’s at stake for your audience?

My presentation planning begins with two questions: What’s my message and who’s my audience? I am now going to add a third question, what’s at stake for this audience?

So as a presenter, what’s at stake for you if your audience doesn’t remember your message?

Joe Pops

How can you be impossible to ignore?

The goal of every presenter is to have their message remembered. In her book, Impossible to Ignore, cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Carmen Simon explores this goal. She reminds us that people can forget 90% of our content within a few day is of our presentation. She describes this as the Point A to Point B Problem. Understanding this problem is especially important if your presentation is trying to influence a decision.

Point A is the point where a communication is delivered and Point B is the point in the future where a decision is made. To have a chance at influencing the decision, your key messages need to be remembered at Point B. Also, between Point A and Point B there is often a time gap. Depending on the type of project, the gap between Point A and Point B might be measured in weeks or months.

Dr. Simon recommends that way to be remembered is through the use of cues or triggers, sticky notes for the memory. These cues should be something your audience will come across in their world. Something that will remind them of your key messages.  She states that:

“This memory trigger method is certainly more powerful than the standard leave-behind. In fact, as the world is becoming increasingly more complex, you will only be as memorable as the items that are likely to trigger memories of you in your clients’ environment. Create a strong association between your content and sub-sequent triggers and you will be consistently and effortlessly on people’s minds.”

It’s a tough job designing and delivering an interesting and audience focused presentation. It is even tougher to create memory cues and get them into your presentation.  I have been experimenting with some ideas, I will let you know how the experiments turn out in a later blog post.

But for now, how can you make sure your messages are unforgettable?

Joe Pops