When Apple asked two ad agencies to pitch for their 1990 advertising campaign, one agency pitched the concept “now we deliver the promise” … the other “the power to be your best. In his book ‘From Pepsi to Apple’, John Sculley (the CEO of Apple) recalls the decision to run “The Power to be your best” campaign, being based on what he believed to be a fundamental principle of good advertising … never advertise anything from a negative perspective. “Now we deliver the promise” … runs the risk of the response ‘so what have you been delivering up until now?’
Does this principle hold true for other types of advertising or presentations? I believe it does. In January 2010, the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership (a UK Government initiative) launched their “Embrace Life” award winning campaign. Traditionally, road safety campaigns use shock tactics to get people to pay attention, showing horrific car crashes and victims sprawled across the wreckage … you couldn’t get a more negative perspective. Take a look.
‘Embrace Life’ uses a totally positive approach.
I think you’ll agree the advert really works … giving the viewer the most powerful and positive reasons to buckle up. The campaign scooped countless awards, including YouTube Ad of the Year; Gold Medal New York International Advertising Awards; and a Bronze Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Awards.
Presenting your business plan or perhaps an overview of the opportunities for increasing business in Africa, may not have the same life or death connotation! … however, I believe the same principle “never advertise anything from a negative perspective”, still holds good.
Think of your presentation opening as the benefit headline of an advertisement. What’s in it for the audience if they listen to you … doom and gloom or real value? Are you selling a problem or a solution?
In today’s world, I feel we need to earn the right to talk about problems. Too many presentations open with a token positive statement and then drill into the negatives, thinly disguised as ‘challenges’.
‘Today, I want to talk about lifting performance in the factory … the key challenges we face are …’
Translation by the audience … ‘you’ll need to work harder this year … and we have identified the problem as …
It’s not a great start, is it?
Instead, how about opening with a powerful opportunity statement … the ultimate result you envisage could be achieved.
I believe there is a way that we can lift performance in our factory by 3 million units per year, with no extra effort required.
A great way to earn the right to talk about the problems and challenges currently hindering performance, is to first look at the positives … what’s working right now? … what currently is having a positive influence on lifting performance?
‘Currently, our production staff are amongst the best trained in the world. Staff turnover is at an all time low and quality standards are above our targeted level …’
Now, when you talk about what’s restraining performance, your audience are in a positive frame of mind and you have a better chance they will be more receptive to what you are about to say.
Open with a positive statement that reflects the value the presentation will offer your audience
Earn the right to talk about what’s not working by first talking about the positives of the current situation … what is working.
This gives you a natural bridge in to what’s not working and now you earned the right to talk about your solution.