Your presentation can’t be all sizzle – content matters!

Many people make the case that when it comes to presentation delivery is all that really matters. Much of this philosophy is based on the misapplication of the famous Mahrabian study which concluded that 93% of all communication is non verbal. But Mehrabian’s study focused on a very narrow aspect of communication and he never intended for his results to be applied to communication in general and certainly not to presentation.

In other words, content matters.

Not only does content matter but including precise detail in your content will make that content more persuasive (Armstrong 2008, Rossiter &Percy 1980, Kelly & Hoel 1991).  Which is why, when it comes to content, simple assertions are not persuasive but evidence supported by precise detail is persuasive.

If you were persuading an audience to try your product you could attempt to influence them with the following assertion: “Surveys show that most consumers prefer our product to the next closest competitor.”

Or we could provide evidence supported by detail: “In 2013 Smith Research company conducted a survey of 1500 consumers and found that 79% preferred our product over our closest competitor.”

Which of those two statements do you find more persuasive?

Dr. Andrew Abela is a presentation consultant as well as the Dean of the Business School and Associate Professor of Marketing at The Catholic University. Dr. Abela teaches what he calls “the reality principle,” which is the idea that we should always present evidence that is concrete rather than conceptual or abstract. 

By the way, I’ll wager that my inclusion of Abela’s full title at Catholic University, including the “Dr.”, made his thoughts regarding “the reality principle” more credible and persuasive to you. 

Delivery skills are important but presentation is much more than just strong delivery. Content matters. And evidence that is precise is persuasive.


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