Remember the power point glory days? You know, the time when you could give a super boring bullet-point filled presentation and not lose 99% of your audience.
The web’s not like that. I mean, it’s really really not like that. Even some awesome 5 minute slide driven presentations don’t work well on the web.
We live in a time when a success is stretching 10 seconds of attention into 3 minutes. And the best way to do that is to change your style and go deductive.
In this post…
- I’ll give you an example of making your big point first;
- talk about the first ten seconds and the “is it worth it?” test;
- define deductive and inductive presentations;
- explain why headlines and headers are important;
- and give you a deductive presentation format you can use.
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Make your big point first
Have you seen Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED talk? Probably, it’s been viewed over 20 million times on the TED site alone. Here’s a quote from just a few minutes in…
My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status. (Applause) Thank you. That was it, by the way. Thank you very much. (Laughter) So, 15 minutes left.Well, I was born … no. (Laughter)
It’s a brilliant web presentation (and ironically it was given before TED published all the talks online). Just lay everything out there, then follow with evidence. Now, here’s the crazy thing.
When you’re not on a stage, you don’t have 3 minutes to make your big point and lock in your audience. In all likelihood, you have ten seconds.
Pass the “is this worth it?” test.
I liked the way you split up the blog into many parts. I found I read all of it. I didn’t look at all the videos.
Most of the time, we’re all unmotivated audience members on the web. There is just too much else out there for any one thing to get our full attention. That’s why seeing a comment like Molly’s is so nice.
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, web page visitors usually leave a page in 10-20 seconds. But, if you can get them to stay 30 seconds, they’re likely to stay much longer (and by much longer I mean minutes).
You want to write a post that will pass the “is this worth it?” test in the first 10 seconds. This will buy you 20 more seconds. You’ll need to sell them again in the next 20 seconds, but if you do, they’ll stay much longer.
Present deductively, not inductively
I’m talking presentation here, not reasoning. I don’t care how you reasoned through to get to your main point. Your someone doesn’t have to follow your path to understand your something.
- For an inductive presentation you lay out all the evidence, then eventually sum it up and deliver the conclusion.
- For a deductive presentation you deliver the conclusion, then lay out all the evidence.
The problem with inductive on the web is that your audience leaves well before getting to your main point. Often they leave before even getting to a subpoint. So you flip it, give them the big point first. If they’re interested, they’ll work their way through the supporting subpoints and evidence.
Headline like a newspaper, above the fold
When you present on the web, headline like a newspaper, not like a journal. Newspapers have centuries of experience writing to unmotivated audiences. Catch them with the headline, sum up everything quickly, then work backwards with the evidence.
Before the web, it was really hard to reach your ideal unmotivated audience (yeah, that’s right, you have an ideal unmotivated audience). So most of the academic stuff was created for a motivated audience (journals, conference presentations, and books).
But now you have the potential to reach an unmotivated audience that would be interested in what you have to say, if you can capture their attention and prove your worth.
Formatting your deductive presentation
Here’s a basic structure that’s worked really well for me in the past. Most of the time, this is a blog post. But you can use a similar kind of structure in an infographic, interactive data visualization, or other presentation formats.
- Your main point is the post title. Start the post with a little story or example and briefly sum up all your subpoints. I usually write this last.
- One by one you’ll write about the subpoints, giving each its own header. How many subpoints is up to you, I like using five but it’s somewhat arbitrary. I think you should have at least three.
- Write out the evidence for each of the subpoints under each header. I always include at least one piece of relevant multimedia content for each.
- Always make sure to link to relevant sources within each section.
Don’t take shortcuts. Sure, you can capture attention with a nice headline, some clever headers, and nice pictures. But without the evidence and sources, you’ve got nothing but a hollow presentation.
How many seconds did you last?
Did you make it through the whole post? Leave a comment and let me know!