Monday, 10 March 2014

Use words that ‘paint pictures’ in your business presentation and your audience will ‘see’ what you are saying as well as hear it.

Of all the different methods of adding impact to the delivery your business presentation, one of the most effective is using words that 'paint pictures’. I have already applied the principle in the title of this blog. I could have said ‘using visual imagery helps audience...’, but instead said ‘words that paint pictures’, thereby conjuring visions in your mind of artists, brushes, colours and a beautiful end product. It is perhaps ironic that the term ‘visual imagery’ has no such power.

If we use words that paint pictures our audience can ‘see’ what we say as well as hear it and the impact is increased considerably. If Churchill had talked simply of: “ideological conflict and a physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas” or even “efforts by the Soviet Union to block itself and its satellite states from open contact with the west” would we still be quoting him today? We do so because he painted pictures with the words he used in 1946: “an ‘Iron Curtain’ has descended across the continent”.

The concept of words that paint pictures can be extended with great effect to phrases that paint pictures. Many enter our everyday language to the extent that they become clichés and we have to think again: making mountains out of molehills; using a sledgehammer to crack a nut; take the wind out of my sails etc.

A good descriptive phrase can, however, do much more than simply paint pictures in our minds. I was once coaching a team of Fund Managers in presentation skills. We got into a debate about the importance of stating clearly that good Fund Managers should develop intricate knowledge of the companies in which they invest by making regular visits to those companies. “I think that can be taken as read” said one somewhat surly member of the team; “the trouble is that anyone can say that”, said a more reasonable colleague. The one person who said nothing was reserving her thoughts for the presentation she was about to give. “I like to invest in companies”, she said, “where the management sit close to the loading bay”. With that one short sentence she had painted a clear, meaningful and memorable image; furthermore she had made it self-evident that she visits companies and follows a specific protocol.

The surly Fund Manager was suddenly keeping rather quiet and he sunk even deeper into his seat when his colleague built upon her ‘loading bay’ pronouncement with a story that was guaranteed to fix her in the minds of her audience. “On one occasion I was nearly arrested for loitering while doing my investment research”, she said. “A policemen was concerned that I was paying very close attention to a row of parked motorcycles. I had to explain – to the extent of showing ID – that I was considering investing in a company that made a specific part for motorcycles and I needed to see for myself how widely the part was being used on the bikes in my surrounding area”. Investors see a lot of Fund Managers; here was one that would stick in their minds as truly committed to getting the best bang for their bucks.

PS Regular readers of my blog posts will know that I usually brighten them up with a picture or two. I have not done so this time – I am relying on the words alone to create pictures in your minds!

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