A typical audience has an average attention span of 7-10 minutes to a presentation. This may come as no surprise in the era of constant communication. It is not easy to give someone our full attention for 10 minutes. Given the same liberty of limitless communication and constraint of short attention, each person can deliver a different amount of content. One can say it is a gift, but the skill that makes for superior presentation is ‘compelling storytelling.’
Imagine that you are about to pitch a groundbreaking policy to the cabinet, or a social change project to a CEO, how can your idea leave a lasting impression? When you turn that ten-minute presentation into an hour of questions, you know you got them. Here is the I-S-O technique that will forever change how you pitch.
I = Introduction (2 min)
- Why do we need this? – Keep your introduction short and concise, then get to the point with a question and why the issue matters. “Today, I am presenting a cash support plan for early childhood, with the following details…” is drab. Instead, try “suppose the government has a 10,000 million baht budget, which issue is the most valuable investment to spend? Studies from several Asian countries confirm that public spending on infants and toddlers yields tangible positive impacts on society.”
- Whose authority is this? – Show the audience how they play a part in your project. Infant cash aid plan, for example, shall be a responsibility of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, and involves collaboration with other government agencies and the private sector to develop the policy. You should research to make sure your audience is related to the issue.
- What will the listeners gain? – You should address this early on because once the audience sees what is in it for them, they will move on to “then how should we do it?” Mentioning the benefits too late could mean losing the audience’s interest for the entire presentation.
S = Sell (2 min)
- Offer solutions: When you get everyone on the same page, it is time to present or ‘sell’ your idea. A good sale doesn’t take a long time, focuses on the crux, and leaves the details for another time.
- Step-by-step advice: WHAT is this policy? -> WHO does what? -> WHERE does the policy take place? -> WHAT are the steps?
- Show the connections:Find a way to connect your idea to the bigger plan. Your infant development policy should link to the core strategy of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security at the moment, or ‘integrate’ with related agencies.
- Talk about limitations:State limitations and weaknesses of your policy; no policy can be one-size-fits-all. Do not waste time getting your listeners to weigh in or comment on it. This point acts as a springboard to the final part.
O = Option (3 min)
- Offer options: Stop comments like “that sounds interesting, but I think we should try…” with Option B or even C. People think they are in control when they get to choose or make a decision. Options lead the decision-makers to think within your framework. They will consider and compare all options instead of critiquing the presenter’s qualifications.
- Recap the options: Conclude by summarizing all the options and ask for opinions. The trick is to have your best option ready to fire. If the audience could not think of a question, they usually ask back, “what do you think?” In that case, do not hesitate to give a concise answer, emphasizing how this option will benefit the audience the most.
- Try to finish this part in 5 minutes, but be prepared to provide more details at the listener’s behest. When they start asking questions, that means your project or policy grasps enough attention to warrant discussion time. Give them more information, but keep them short and straight to the point. Remember, your audience has less than 10 minutes per issue.
4 Things to Keep in Mind Before Pitching
Before pitching, you should analyze the overall situation beforehand. Draw up this “4Knows” plan by answering these questions:
- Know the audience’s interests – “What do they want to hear?” Find a shared issue between you and them. They will want to listen if you know what issue or solution interests them.
- Know the limitations – “Are there sufficient budgets? Or enough staff?” Researching this will help you find the best approach for your audience.
- Know the audience – “Are they the decision-makers? Who are they?” You may deliver the most compelling pitch, but if the audience does not have the decision-making power, your idea may not get picked up at all.
- Know the process – “What are the steps we need to take?” Perhaps your audience will bluntly ask what you want them to do. A well-prepared pitch means you can describe the actions concretely: the agency that will carry it through, what the indicator looks like, the budget, and the time needed. You do not want to waste time searching for more information to reply later, as it is a massively missed opportunity.
Make your slides simple. They must not distract your audience from the points you try to get across. Use the following tricks:
Accentuate main ideas with proper text type
First of all, your slides must be legible. Use simple fonts and appropriate sizes. Emphasize essential numbers or statistics with bold text or highlight.
One idea per slide
Putting too many words on a slide pulls the audience’s attention away from you. You should add only short ideas to make the audience understand the point you are speaking about.
Use symbols and colors
Instead of plain text, use graphics and symbols to improve the slide’s legibility.
In conclusion, have your ‘4 Knows’ ready to create the I-S-O presentation. If you can visualize all steps, your audience will see the image too. Do not waste time stretching out details. Clear conciseness is the key to success. And remember that you are articulating ideas. If you use slides, they must also convey your points, but do not let slide presentations distract the audience from what you are saying.