The way we interact with each other has been completely redefined by technology. We no longer call our friends to tell them the latest news, but we send them a text message, a Facebook message or a tweet. If we want to congratulate someone on an important milestone, we like or favourite their status update and if we are upset, we vent our anger on social media. Intimate, personal interactions have been upstaged by quick-fire, digital messages and reactions. As a result, all of our smart devices are constantly buzzing with new notifications, giving our brains regular bursts of dopamine, which make us feel good. This has had a significant impact on our attention spans and decision-making processes.
Entrepreneurs are forced to re-evaluate how they can communicate most effectively with their various audiences and ensure the message they want to get across really sticks. In today’s hyper-connected world, where people have fickle attention spans and are used to instant gratification, messages need to be more than just short and simple to be compelling. They need to be genuine and delivered in a conversational style to create an emotional connection with the recipient, which means one-dimensional presentations and pitches will become a thing of the past.
See also: How to pitch to a venture capitalist – What VCs are looking for, preparing for a pitch, and how to behave in that crucial first meeting
Conversational presenting breaks up old, pre-existing misconceptions of how presentations are supposed to be delivered and, instead, focuses on establishing a truly meaningful exchange between all parties. So rather than just broadcasting key messages to an audience without receiving any feedback, conversational presenting puts the onus on the audience members to engage with the presenter and steer the discussion in a direction that’s of most value to them. While a conversational presentation style is the foundation successful pitches are built on, the two primary factors that influence people’s decision making process are emotions and trust.
Emotions lead to action
Emotions define people’s characters and shape their personalities. A sad movie, a happy song or an outrageous statement by a politician all make us feel genuinely involved, and sometimes even trigger us to take action. We rarely – if ever – manage to make a connection on such a deep level if no emotions are involved.
A successful pitch tells a coherent story, so entrepreneurs should pick a dominant emotional theme for their presentation depending on what kind of response they want to trigger. The general consensus is that people can feel 6 basic emotions: Anger, disgust, happiness, sadness, surprise and fear. This is not to say that pitches need to be heart-breaking, deliberately euphoric, or maddeningly angering in order to be successful. But entrepreneurs should keep them in mind when preparing any presentations if they want to connect with their audience on a deeper level and initiate that important decision-making process.
Trust leads to conclusions
Initiating this process is only half the battle. The next, and equally-crucial step is to get people to commit to taking action. We are inherently critical beings, which means just telling us what to do is rarely enough to convince us to actually do it. We like facts and figures, stats and evidence that support us in our decision-making process. This validation is important, and entrepreneurs should be aware of this when creating their business presentations.
As important as emotional storytelling is, the overall call to action needs to be underpinned by sound reasoning. Not only does it get people to take action, it also builds a rapport between the presenter and their audiences. Every decision-making process follows the same pattern: first we emotionally connect with the issue at hand, and then we rationalise our decision by using supporting evidence. If a presentation is based on facts, people are much more likely to trust the presenter and take on board any suggestions or recommendations they might have.
Pitching is no exact science and there will always be new and improved ways of doing things, but one thing is clear: the time for entrepreneurs to abandon old-school presentation styles and move to a more genuine, interactive and conversational form of presenting has come. Audiences have grown tired of sitting through endless presentations without being able to provide input. At a time where essential information on companies, products and services can liberally be found on the internet, pitches need to take on a new form if they want to be successful.
Conversational presenting is about establishing a true, two-way dialogue. By telling a story and underpinning it with strong facts, while using conversational presenting as a technique to deliver this story, entrepreneurs will develop a new kind of lasting relationship with their audience that is built on trust and a strong emotional connection.
Spencer Waldron is the European regional director at Prezi.