Why do you use PowerPoint? If your answer doesn't involve changing minds, then you're doing it wrong.
This morning, Seth Godin had a post on his blog on the one purpose of every presentation. He talked about the importance of changing minds as a result of a presentation. And he's right.
If all you're doing is restating what everyone already knows, you should really save everyone an hour and just send a short email. If you're not even doing that -- if you're just standing up because it's expected, and you're giving a presentation that doesn't say anything that anyone will remember in four hours -- then stop what you're doing, close your laptop, and go buy coffee for everyone instead. It will do more good and will be remembered far longer.
But if you do want to change minds, there are five techniques you can use. Since I've got to put them in order, I like to say you can change minds with BRASS: beauty, reason, awe, shock, and sexiness. Let's look at each one before you decide which you'll use in your next executive meeting.
Beauty: Sometimes you can change minds through the elegance and beauty of your ideas. Coming up with BRASS as an acronym for five ways to change minds? That's beautiful. If you can come up with a slick acronym or a lovely visual to attach to your idea, then you can use beauty to change minds. When used properly, beauty can be very effective.
Reason: Engineers and software developers love logic and reason. If you can make your point with a flow chart, decision tree, or truth table, you're on your way to a solid reason win. There's one danger: Too many engineers feel their every argument is based on reason, since they're, you know, engineers. Let me help you with something: It doesn't work that way. Make sure your argument is really based on reason before you lean on this particular method.
Awe: There's an old saying in the presentation world: If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with... bovine effluvia. Sometimes the sheer weight of facts on your side can swing the argument. If the thud factor of your report makes it seem like you just dropped a library copy of the Oxford English Dictionary on the desk, then awe may be the right approach to change minds. Occasionally, the people in the room will end up changing their minds out of exhaustion -- a good, long list of facts can be very pursuasive.
Shock: "The sky is purple." "Our competition is our friend." When you can bring a statement that seems to contradict the basic facts of existence to bear on the presentation, you can bring your colleagues around through shock. Not every idea is shocking -- and shock can be followed by reason if you show how you got to your idea -- but a shocking idea can be very compelling when it comes time to change minds within your organization.
Sexiness: What's sexy in a business setting? If a proposal makes people feel good about themselves, it's sexy. It can prop up their ego. It can appeal to their sense of decency. It can promise career advancement. There are lots of ways for an idea to make someone feel good about embracing a new concept. This doesn't require anything underhanded or dishonest; it just involves showing someone how embracing the new will make them feel better about themself or their career.
There's your BRASS. How are you going to use it? Thinking back to presentations you've been in, can you see how these ideas were used by the presenter? Let me know what you think -- and whether you think my BRASS is hopelessly tarnished.
— Curtis Franklin, Jr. , Executive Editor, Enterprise Efficiency