Small Business

Put a Human Face on Your Presentations


The image of a human face can make a powerful impact. Use some during your next presentation to forge a connection with your audience

Attaching a patient's photo to his or her file makes radiologists feel "more connected" to the patient. The radiologists, in turn, provide "longer, more meticulous reports" for those patients, according to research presented at last December's annual conference of the Radiological Society of North America and recently reported in The New York Times.

Interestingly, at the same radiological conference the previous year, I helped a large medical equipment company create a presentation to introduce a breakthrough CT scan. While most presentations were data heavy, we chose to personalize the technology by introducing the audience to two fictional patients. We put a human face on the subjects by showing photographs of "David," a 62-year-old patient who walked into his doctor's office with chest discomfort, and "Susan," a 57-year-old who was taken to the emergency room after being found lying on her kitchen floor. Of course, these were hypothetical stories but they reflected scenarios in which the CT scan would be used. With each scenario, the presenters educated the audience about the technology and showed how, in each case, the new equipment could save lives by leading to a faster and more reliable diagnosis. The presentation won an award by the Los Angeles chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

The presentation worked for the same reason radiologists take more care with X-rays that are accompanied by the patient's photo. Emotions govern decision-making. In Emotionomics, Dan Hill writes, "Humans are extremely visual: We think largely in images, not words." Hill explains that 80% of what humans retain is visually based. "It's important to be rationally on-message. But it's even more imperative to be on-emotion. A company's message will only be successful if it attracts interest and emotionally appeals to the receiver." Consider the following tips on making your own presentations resonate with your audience.

1. Show real people using your product. Visit the Intel (INTC) Web site. The home page introduces customers to average people who are using Intel products to improve their lives or their business. You'll read about a photographer who uses Intel-based systems for photo editing or an entrepreneur using the latest 3G-connected netbook to keep in touch when she travels. Intel builds and sells computer chips—products that few people ever see. Adding a face to the marketing materials, online, or in a presentation in front of a live audience helps create an emotional connection with potential customers.

2. Add faces. Your presentations probably contain plenty of text, charts, and data. It's time to add some photos of faces so that your audience gets a visual cue when you talk about how your product, service, or company improves people's lives. Ideally, use professional photos of real customers. But at the very least, buy stock photographs and avoid the cheesy images that come standard with PowerPoint.

3. Create hypothetical scenarios so your audience can imagine themselves using your product. Advertisers in the banking field have known this for some time. Most ads and Web sites for retirement services show faces of a satisfied man, woman, or couple who are secure in their knowledge that they have enough money to meet their needs, all thanks to the company's products. Just as we introduced the new CT scan with faces of our two patients, find a way to create story lines that leave your audience with a clear idea of how your product might benefit them. You might want to start with the example to give your audience the overview of what it does, followed by specifics. These scenarios are best introduced in presentations and on your company's Web site.

Recently a controversial Australian-made antismoking commercial drew protests for showing a crying 3-year-old who had lost his mother, temporarily, in a train station. The ad ran in New York City and struck such an emotional chord that many people, even those who supported its message, were taken aback by the face of the little boy. In defending it, a New York City health director, Jenna Mandel-Ricci, was quoted as saying, "In order to motivate someone to quit, you have to provoke a strong emotional response."

Remember, the image of a human face can make a powerful impact. Keep this in mind, and try to use the tips I describe above to forge a connection with your audience during your next presentation. Good luck!

Carmine Gallo is the communication skills coach for the world's most admired brands. He is a popular speaker and the author of several books including Fire Them Up! His upcoming title, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, will be published by McGraw-Hill in October. More of Gallo's columns are available in his ongoing series.

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