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“Made to Stick” will help you with Presentation Zen

Posted by Mark Bennett on March 19, 2009

41osvvquol_ss500_Folks on the TalentedApps team and our Oracle colleagues have been exercising deliberate practice in applying the principles from “Presentation Zen” to help make our presentations better at getting our message across to the audience in an engaging, memorable way. We’ve found that the concepts presented in “Made to Stick” help immensely in doing so. If you haven’t had a chance to check these books out, they are worth the time.

Here’s a very brief summary of what “Made to Stick” covers, taken from an example used in the book:

Do you remember the Subway ad campaign about the obese guy who lost a bunch of weight on a diet of nothing but Subway sandwiches? Most of us do – it was one of the most successful campaigns and turned Subway around, increasing sales by over 15% year over year – twice that of their competition. Did you know the campaign almost didn’t happen? It has a lot of the six elements described in “Made to Stick” that help make ideas stick: 

  1. Simple – not simplistic, but having *one* core, profound idea. “Eat subs and lose weight.”
  2. Unexpected – it takes you from “Huh?” to “Aha!” A guy lost a ton of weight eating fast food! (“Huh?”) What mattered was which sandwiches he ate (low fat ones – “Aha!”).
  3. Concrete – not abstract. They showed his oversized pants, how much weight he lost (450 lbs down to 180 lbs), what sandwiches he ate.
  4. Credible – a guy who wore 60-inch pants is giving us diet advice! He’s been there!
  5. Emotional – we tend to care about individuals more than about a mass (which tends to just make us analytical and therefore detached – not what you want.) It also taps into the more profound levels of Maslow’s hierarchy; it’s about a guy who reached his potential with the help of a subway shop.
  6. Story – our protagonist overcomes big odds to triumph. It inspires us to act.

Gimmicky or not, the six elements turn out to spell SUCCES(s), a nice mnemonic.

When we are trying to get an idea or message across with Presentation Zen, we are after the same thing: get that idea or message to “Stick”. Simple messages are easier to remember. Unexpected things get people’s attention. Concrete examples help them imagine. Credible sources help them to believe. Emotional content gets them to care. And stories get them to act.


We hope you find both Presentation Zen and Made to Stick as helpful in your efforts. Please share your experiences and any helpful suggestions or sources.


9 Responses to ““Made to Stick” will help you with Presentation Zen”

  1. Meg Bear said

    I totally agree Mark. I found this book helpful. I think it especially useful for those who are in the learning discipline. The concepts of ”
    Commander’s intent” and “the curse of knowledge” made big impressions on me.

  2. Great post Mark, I am walking over the the campus library right know to pick up this book (gotta love working for a College).

  3. @Meg: Thank you for calling out those concepts – they were so insightful. And thanks also for nudging me about the book and this post. 🙂
    @Steve: Glad to help and thanks for the kind words. I am hoping Kindle on an iPhone is at least some consolation for not having easy access to the campus library.

  4. Amy Wilson said

    Mark – I just attended the PresentationReboot seminar (Pres Zen + Slideology) and they highly recommended this book for story development. By the way, developing stories is the focus of Nancy’s Duarte’s next book on presentation design (she is currently in the research phase).

  5. […] Posted by Meg Bear on March 27, 2009 I’m sure you know that many of us at TalentedApps have been looking for ways to incorporate deliberate practice into our work.  This makes sense, given the number of years that we have been working in this field.   A practical recommendation from our research arm, was that we read Made to Stick.    […]

  6. […] Talented Apps: “Made to Stick” will help you with Presentation Zen (I haven’t read the book, but the post has good info) […]

  7. […] the last few months I have heard some advice that was very specific and unexpected in two entirely different contexts and from two different people.  This is the kind of phenomenon […]

  8. […] this is when I turn to the a-ha book Made to Stick that uses yet another acronym to describe ideas that succeed (yes, it is SUCCESs). […]

  9. […] “Made to Stick” and several other books have pointed out, that sentence is an excellent example of […]

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