Build your talk on messages, not topics – Secret #15 of star presenters [Video]

Scrabble letter tiles saying “Wordy slides KILL your message!”Have you heard of the “assertion-evidence approach” for making slides? It’s a simple, powerful, evidence-based approach to presenting your talk.

It was devised as a more effective way to share scientific findings. But you can also use its direct­ness and clarity in business – to great effect.

And that’s especially so when you present insights from analysing data. You know, like:

  • customer touchpoints
  • company financials
  • employee survey results.

 

What’s in this post?

 

3 steps to use the assertion-evidence approachScroll to Contents ↑

For each slide in the body of your talk, the assertion-evidence approach suggests you take 3 steps:

  1. Write an assertion (a complete message) as your slide title
  2. Support your assertion with visual evidence
  3. Use your slide’s visual to prompt what you say

Here’s how those steps work:

  1. Write an assertion (a complete message) as your slide title
  2. Your slide title makes a claim

    An assertion’s a statement of fact. So your slide title makes a claim – which your audience can choose whether to accept.

    For instance, instead of a typical slide title that’s just a topic phrase (or label) like “Customer loyalty”, your slide title might say:

    39% of our customers have also used our biggest rival this year

    That’s much more helpful to your audience than the titles most presenters use.
    Prof. Michael Alley (of Pennsylvania State University) explains the benefit this way:

    “If an audience member becomes distracted or tired,
    that sentence headline is a safety rope
    that helps the audience member stay with the speaker”

  3. Support your assertion with visual evidenceTo top of this section↑
  4. Audiences process visuals 1000s of times faster

    Crucially, visual evidence uses very few words (if any), because audiences process visuals thousands of times faster than words.

    What’s more, visuals complement what you say, rather than over­loading your listeners with yet more words!

    Most often, your visual evidence can be a simple chart, diagram, or photo. So, for the slide about “39% of our customers”, you could use a chart:
    Doughnut chart showing 39% highlighted in bright yellow

  5. Use your slide’s visual to prompt what you sayTo top of this section↑
  6. Using the visual to prompt you means you don’t need many words on your slide (and certainly not bullet points, or even paragraphs of text). As a result, your presentation’s far more engaging for your audience.

    You come across as a confident expert

    Plus, you come across as a confident expert in your subject. That’s because you’re adding value by explaining the visual, rather than just reading out (or paraphrasing) what’s written on your slide.

    It also makes sense to add helpful animation to many of your slides. By that I mean make your visual appear bit-by-bit, to keep people closely in step with what you’re saying.

 

Video – explanation and examples (5 mins) by Prof. Michael AlleyScroll to Contents ↑

For more examples, check out this great video about the assertion-evidence approach. It’s from Professor Michael Alley, and it’s just 5 minutes long.

His key message (and opening line) is:

“The 1st principle of the assertion-evidence approach is to
build your talks on messages, not topics”

 

“Hacking” the assertion-evidence approachScroll to Contents ↑

If you’re comfortable using the assertion-evidence approach, you could even “hack” it. For instance, when your slide title contains a shocking statistic, you could show that number in an extremely large font.

Give your audience welcome variety

That makes for a visually striking slide, without needing a chart. And if your slide deck’s already full of charts, that helps give your audience welcome variety.

You end up with something like this:

Slide with the number “39%” in a very large font

 

Over to youScroll to Contents ↑

In summary, here’s the assertion-evidence approach in a nutshell:

  1. Write an assertion (a complete message) as your slide title
  2. Support your assertion with visual evidence
  3. Use your slide’s visual to prompt what you say

Being a 3-step process, it’s quite easy to remember – and not hard to apply. Yet it can have a profound effect on your presentations.

For more great, bite-sized videos about this approach, plus other resources (like free PowerPoint templates), go to assertion-evidence.com.

For an in-depth explanation of this approach, I also recommend the 3-part video series by iBiology, again presented by Michael Alley. (Each part is just under 30 minutes.)

I hope you find that the assertion-evidence approach helps you rock your talk, and I wish you every success with it!

 

Also check outScroll to Contents ↑

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