As I caught up with some reading over Christmas I found a nice little nugget in Chris Evans’ latest book Call the Midlife. In one chapter PR guru Matthew Freud summed up his advice to Evans on publicising the comeback of his TV show TFI Friday with the question: ‘How many bits do you have in your draft running order that might immediately be uploaded to YouTube’? Despite being about TV publicity and Social Media this is actually a terrific principle for constructing a business presentation and here’s why.
The advice Freud was giving to Evans was essentially an update on the principles he was deploying back in the early 1990s. I worked with him then on a marketing conference during which he explained his strategy for publicising the big film of the moment - Four Weddings and a Funeral. “What we did”, he said, “was go through the film almost frame by frame looking for ‘WOMs’ – little bits that would create Word of Mouth (WOM). All our publicity work went into pushing those moments – the audience did the rest of the work for us, by talking about them.”
The basis of effective communication has always been Word of Mouth. You can say it loud and say it frequently, but your efforts will be wasted if the message doesn’t register with people to the extent that they go away and talk about it. In the days before Social Media when we all watched the same TV shows in large numbers at the same time, we used to talk about ‘water cooler moments’ – discussions based on what everyone had been seeing or hearing the previous evening. With advances in technology - and the advent of Social Media in particular – this is now known as ‘Sharing’, but it’s all really the same Word of Mouth concept that has always prevailed.
Coming back to business presentations, yours is not necessarily going to be a candidate for YouTube, so let’s focus on WOMs: how many WOMs did your last business presentation contain? What if anything did your audience go away remembering and talking about that night, the next day and ever since? As I have discussed before (here), some of the potential WOMs that I suggest to people I am coaching can appear quite trivial at first sight. But if they get you, your message - and ideally both - understood and remembered your job will have been done.
Chris Evans was, by the way, unable to answer Freud’s question about the number of potential YouTube moments initially, but went away and discussed it with his producer Will. They eventually reckoned they had – or could create – fifteen. The show was commissioned for a series very soon after it was broadcast and if you look on YouTube now you will find, together with appearances by various bands, clips of Cheryl Cole and Justin Bieber doing the water slide down the stairs and Chris Martin playing a keyboard made from bananas.