Tuesday, September 22, 2015

PLEAD Your Case

I recently attended a webinar presented by Matt Abrahams, author of Speaking Up Without Freaking Out. His website is http://www.nofreakingspeaking.com/.

In this webinar Matt presented five tips to maximize the effectiveness of your virtual presentations. The five components form the acronym PLEAD.


Three basic structures that Matt shared are:
  1. Problem (Opportunity) > Solution > Benefit - These sections of the presentation can be arranged in any order. Everyone experiences problems of some sort, and if you can provide a solution and explain to them how they will benefit, you will have a successful presentation. You can also use this structure to present opportunities for improvement.
  2. What > So What > Now What - In this structure, the "what" is the current scenario or product. In the "so what" section, you can provide the reasons why attendees should care about your presentation topic. Finally, "now what" is where you can provide the benefit and provide a path for the future.
  3. Past > Present > Future - This is very basic structure, but one that is very effective. Provide the history of the topic at hand, offer information about the current situation, and suggest how the future can be impacted by choosing a particular course of action.


Matt used the analogy of a tour guide to represent the role as presenter. A major responsibility of tour guides is to ensure that all in the group stay together without any individuals lagging behind or moving forward on their own. While the group is together, tour guides must keep people focused.

One way to ensure that your attendees stay with you through the presentation is to set expectations at the beginning and throughout the presentation. What can attendees expect?

Another method to keep your audience with you is to smoothly transition from one section to another. Three ways to transition are:
  • Summarize each section before moving to the next.
  • Ask questions of the attendees or discuss questions that could be asked.
  • Refer to orientation/agenda slides to introduce and end each section of the presentation.


If you have listened to a great storyteller, you probably found yourself drawn into the story, possibly to the point that you are so focused that you forget everything else. There are a few techniques that Matt recommended to ensure that your audience is drawn in to your presentation.
  • Use analogies to help provide a connection between new information and what attendees already know. Our brains are wired for narrative, and using this technique ensures that attendees are more likely to recall the information you provide.
  • Think > Pair > Share - Interactivity provides variation to your presentation and also reinforces topics discussed. Ask attendees to think about a question or application of information and request that they divide into pairs or small groups to discuss. After a few minutes, bring the group back together to share what the breakout pairs discussed.
  • Focus on the relevance of the information to the attendees. People tend to disengage if they perceive that a particular subject is not relevant to them or is about something they are not interested in.
  • Leverage chat. Presenting virtually is a challenge because so many distractions exist. Attendees can check their phones, FaceBook, Instragram, etc. and you, as the presenter, have no idea. Ask questions through chat or Twitter (using a customized hashtag) to stimulate conversation relevant to the presentation.


Slides are supportive tool, not the focus of the presentation. Slides should not serve as the script for the presenter. The version of the presentation that you leave as a handout should be different from the one you use during the presentation. Handouts can have more detail, so that readers can view on their own.

A few tips that Matt provided to improve slides are:
  1. Avoid too much detail - what Matt calls "eye charts" where the text keeps getting smaller and smaller in the outline hierarchy.
  2. A mix of quality picture-based visuals (slides) while speaking is the best. People tend to tune out when you are reading verbatim from the slides.
  3. Search for images on Google to get ideas for creating slides.


By varying your voice you can provide interest and variation to your presentation. Varying your voice includes more than just changing the tone, pitch, and rhythm of your voice.
  • Use emotive words that you naturally use. For example, words like great, fantastic, and awesome naturally bring positive energy.
  • Read children's books aloud. Children's books are typically written is such a way that there are clear contrasts between loud and soft, light and dark, and so on. Reading children's books, especially to children, is a great way to improve your delivery skills and practice intonation.
  • Use a co-presenter. Using two or more presenters with practices transitions between them adds energy to a presentation.

Structure and Variation

In summary, the two key points are to have some sort of structure and provide variation throughout the presentation. Attendees respond better when there is some sort of organization or outline to the presentation. Neuroscientists have discovered that people need a change of scene at least every 10 minutes.

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