Winning the Business

Sailing the 7 C’s to Effective Presentations

Make your presentation break through a sea of information overload

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Today, nearly everyone is overwhelmed—virtually drowning in emails, blogs, and social media. In this sea of information clutter, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, where people have 8-second attention spans, you need to stand out. Like Seth Godin’s mythical Purple Cow, you must be remarkable. Being remarkable will always help, no matter what field you are in and how you want to change the world.

Being remarkable will always help, no matter what field you are in and how you want to change the world.

An effective way to prepare a remarkable presentation is to use the seven C’s: clear, compelling, customer-focused, concise, contagious, crafted (with a purpose), and call to action.

  1. Clear: Clear thinking leads to presentation clarity. It’s too easy to open your PowerPoint before your mind. Think before you touch the keyboard. Remarkable public speaking is based on remarkable private thinking.
  2. Compelling: Without being compelling, you won’t be persuasive. Many presentations are simply too boring. A common symptom of audience boredom is eyes glazing over. But that doesn’t have to happen. Use videos, provocative statistics, and props. Tell stories and use analogies. Make it interesting.
  3. Customer-Focused: Start by asking yourself a few questions to analyze your audience. How much prior experience or knowledge does your audience have? What is its attitude toward your subject—interested, positive, hostile, intimidated? The main sin is to be too “me-focused”—too much about what you as the presenter want to say versus what the audience wants and needs to hear.
  4. Concise: As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Be sincere, be brief, and be seated.” Don’t let your presentation be too long, too wordy, too detailed, or all of the above. Remember: Less is more—if in doubt, leave it out or move it to the backup charts. A tiny font with too many bullets kills your audience’s understanding. And don’t take too much of a vertical plunge. This applies in particular to engineers, who think they have to share everything they know to be persuasive.
  5. Contagious: Contagious sounds bad, as if you’ll give someone a cold. But in a presentation, having your message go viral is your goal. Be memorable and sticky like duct tape. Group your ideas using the rule of three—people tend to remember three points, not four, five, or seven. Use relevant stories, metaphors, analogies, zingers, props, and short videos.
  6. Crafted (with a purpose): If you don’t have a clear, well-defined purpose, how will you ever know if you achieved it? Are you communicating the one thing, the big idea, the main point, or are you off in the weeds? Can your headline be summarized in a one-sentence, 140-character tweet?
  7. Call to Action: You need a powerful call to action. A call or rally for action will persuasively inspire change. Amazingly, some presentations just end. So what? What was the audience supposed to do? If you don’t generate tangible outcomes from your meetings, what did you accomplish?

Follow the seven C’s and you’ll create a remarkable, memorable, and influential presentation that results in action.


Jay Herther, CPP APMP Fellow, is vice president of business winning for the electronics systems sector at BAE Systems in Nashua, New Hampshire. He can be reached at herther3@comcast.net.

*Disclaimer: This article reflects the personal opinions of Jay Herther, who accepts responsibility for the content and accuracy of the information contained and compliance with copyright laws. The article is not a statement on behalf of BAE Systems and does not necessarily reflect the opinion or practices of BAE Systems.

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