How To Make Your Presentation Really Stick


It’s always a struggle to figure out if what you’re saying is going to leave a lasting impact. Your audience is giving you their time and attention, but, with all of the distractions of life, you may have a tough time keeping that attention. That’s why you have to make sure that your time in front of your audience is time well spent. Leave them with something worthwhile, something that improves their lives a little bit. Leave them with an idea that sticks.

In an excerpt from their book Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive, and Others Die, brothers Chip and Dan Heath outline six ways that ideas become “sticky”–or persistent in the minds of those who encounter them.

  • Simplicity – Ideas that stick need to be simple, and powerful. You need to prioritize the core concepts and make sure that you are distilling ideas down to their most essential stuff. The brothers Heath give the example of the golden rule as an idea that is simple to learn, and profound in its meaning.
  • Unexpectedness – Capturing and maintaining interest is a matter of working against what is generally expected and accepted. Ideas that don’t take us by surprise often wind up being filed away in the “I already knew that” category. We need to, instead, find the gaps that are in need of filling.
  • Concreteness – Combine too much abstract thought with limited attention, and you’re just asking for your message to be forgotten. It is important that ideas be presented in terms of actual human actions and events. We need to provide clear, consistent, concrete examples of our ideas, or they will go in one ear, and out the other.
  • Credibility – “Sticky” ideas need to have their own credentials. Since we don’t necessarily have the sort of authority to make everything we say believable, we need to make sure that the ideas we offer ring true. The Heaths provide the example of Reagan’s famous question “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” That sort of “try-it-before-you-buy” nature helped that idea win Reagan an election. Where stats fail, an idea’s credibility will pick up the slack.
  • Emotions - Creating emotional connections is, perhaps, the most powerful tool in making an idea stick with us. We connect with that which moves us. If an idea resonates with the audience’s emotion, they will remember that idea, and be more prepared to act on it.
  • Story – Stories are a guide. They are our shared history, our tradition. Stories give us access to information, help us build emotional connections, and give us something to latch on to that helps us make sense of our world. Stories help us mentally prepare for situations we might encounter.

As you go about creating your next presentation, keep these concepts in the fore of your mind. Work through your message to make sure that you are telling a simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional story. That’s the sort of message that will guarantee your audience is able to tear their attention away from the distractions, and walk away with an idea that will take hold.

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