Leg 2 of the Presenting Stool – Winning your Case

It has been the common practice for decades to begin all presentations, whether in person or remotely, using the same formula. Namely, stating the Subject, followed by the Agenda.

Unto itself, there is nothing wrong with this approach. However, over time the effectiveness of this approach has diminished primarily due to the changes in the method and mediums of communications.

Audiences today, time crunched as they are, multitasking furiously with little to no time for chit chat or presentation preambles, want to know a) why they should pay attention to begin with; and b) the value of doing so.

To this end, Louws looked outside the traditional venues of presenting, and fortuitously has arrived at a formula that answers both the above questions very successfully.

The answer came from the legal community. A community whose success and/or failure rests squarely on its ability to successfully prove its case to the satisfaction of the jury.

This same mentality haspervaded the corporate mindset. Managers are less likely to approve a budget just because it was approved the previous year. Brand folks are more likely to challenge the suppositions of its agency’s creative artwork than agree on it face value. Strategic recommendations are not approved just based on the credibility of the presenter.

The Case Approach

This approach is based on the supposition that the audience is less interested in buying into what’s being presented because it “sounds” good, and instead wants to be persuaded that it will get the job done as per expectations.

In other words “Prove it to me” has become the moniker of the corporate executive whose own future is also based on quantifiable performance.

We do not deviate from the normal Subject, Body, Conclusion outline. This is still a very workable and effective logical and linear flow.

But knowing that this outline was insufficient in getting and keeping an audience’s attention long enough to be convinced, here are the questions that helped us arrive at the Case Approach.

  1. “How do we state the subject in a way that will entice the audience to initially pay attention?”
  2. “How do we then hold their attention?”
  3. “How do we close the deal in a way that prompts action?”

And here it is – the Case Approach.

The Promise

In court the defense lawyer starts out with a simple premise. “I am here to show that my client is innocent of charges”.

Translating this to presentations, instead of starting with just a statement of the subject – “Today we will review 4th quarter results”, we follow the legal approach of making a Promise.

“We are here today to show you how the 4th quarter’s results will help us reposition our promotions against Wal-Mart in Q1 & Q2 of next year.”

Essentially, you are converting the subject into the essential value the audience can expect to gain from listening to the presentation.

This approach has been used for decades by the print news media whose practice it is to put sufficient grist into their headlines that it entices you to a) buy the paper; and b) read the article.

Two Cautions

  1. For you to get this right you must know what value is of key importance to your audience. In the case above, if “re-position promotions against Wal-Mart” is not the audience’s key concern or interest, you are just as likely to lose their interest as you would by just stating the generic subject alone.
  2. Translate the Promise into the audience’s lingo, not yours. “re-position promotions against Wal-Mart” may be how you might say it. However, think of who your audience is. They might be more than likely to say “Give Wal-Mart whiplash in Q1 & Q2 next year” (you heard this stated in the hallway during a discussion between the Promotions Director and the CMO)

The Proof

Following logic, once you make a promise to an audience, you are required to now Prove that you can deliver which is why we refer to this next section as The Proof.

Therefore, the Body of the presentation is now considered the Proof or Evidence that you can deliver as promised.

Having the mindset that you are there to prove your point also makes your presentation that much more succinct and far less likely to waffle aimlessly.

Your entire purpose then is to prove what you promised. If there is information that might tangentially support your promise, stick it where it belongs – in the Appendix. Referred to as “circumstantial evidence”.

Occasionally you will run into situations where you just do not have the tangible evidence or it is insufficient in volume to help you prove your case. In these cases look to using analogies, examples and case studies that help you build a circumstantial case. (See Leg 1 of Presenting – Story Telling, covered in Louws’ Blogs in November. https://www.louwstraining.com/the-louw-down-blog/meeting-presentation-skills/presenting-the-4-legged-stool/

The Close

This is where, as in any court case, you summarize using the most pertinent evidence presented that supports your case in proving your promise.

This, too, streamlines the end of your presentation and avoids the typical generic rhetoric.


When you close (summarize) do so by the purest definition of what a summary means; “brief and comprehensive; concise”.

Keep it brief, on point and entirely geared to summarizing the evidence that proves the promise you made.

In Summation:

To simplify, think of this as the PPC approach. Promise – Proof – Close.

Ensure you truly understand what your audience’s expectations are, as an effective promise is dependent upon it.

Provide evidence not opinion.

Close your case by briefly highlighting the evidence, proving the promise made.

Our next blog will be on Leg 3 of the Presenting Stool – Bringing your Case Alive.

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Presenting – The 4 Legged Stool

There are four very simple subjects to presenting. They can be captured as follows:

1)      Telling your Story

2)      Making your Case

3)      Bringing your case Alive

4)      Supporting your case

Each of these components of presenting is the subject of our next four blogs.

We will start with Telling your Story.

There are 8 essential ingredients to storytelling. Each has an integral role in the development of a story. They are given here in no particular order.

1) Single focus.

Here you ensure you have a single focus with your story – the one thing the audience will take away. Repeat it often. Represent it often. Importantly, make it relevant to whomever you are talking to.

In a broad-based presentation you would look at today being about the economy. In the 80’s it was growth. In the 30’s you’d reference survival.

2) Surprise and Unexpected focus.

If giving a speech on Talent Management, you instead refer to the Year 2004 as a pivotal theme  – The Global Sociological watershed in Social Networking where Google, Facebook, Orkut and 5 others broke onto the scene and today account for 1.4 Billion users online or 56% of all global online users. You then tie back how talent today has, in less than 9 years, needed to change how they communicate, think and work.

3) Trivia.

That creates awe, surprise and inspires understanding.

In a speech on leadership and image, the fact that Don Draper – the protagonist in the Mad Men TV series, a fictitious character, was ranked the world’s most influential man in the world (2009) – as per AskMen the #1 men’s lifestyle magazine, over the living.

4) Building relationships between #’s and real events and things.

In a presentation on advertising on social networking sites, the fact that the top 8 social networking sites have the same number of users as the combined total population of 8 America’s.

5) Progressive thought through time – where each links to the other in some way.

In a speech on the importance of social change and those who have created it. The fact that the Big 4’s – 4000BC (first known civilization emerges), 1400BC (Phoenicians develop the first alphabet), 4AD (Birth of Christ) and 2004 (8 of the top 24 social sites enter the market, today capturing 56% of the total user base)

6) Proof of Claim.

Every time a claim is made, evidence is used to support it. Third party evidence is more powerful than personalized evidence. Friend tells you how they lost 25 lbs. vs. the company selling the product telling you.

7) Anecdotes, Examples, Quotes and Analogies.

Liberally use one or more of these tools throughout your presentation or speech.

Ensure however, once used, you do not make the classic mistake of then explaining the point further. One of the beauties of these tools is that they make the point and so, no more needs be said, oftentimes reducing the length of your talk considerably.

8) Emotional conclusions.

Using Steve Job’s narrated version of Think Different – “The Crazy Ones” commercial, which never aired, (they chose to use the Dryfus narrated version) to conclude a presentation on Innovation.

In the End:

Make sure you do not mistakenly use “story” telling as an excuse to becoming verbose.

Instead first think pithy then weave your relevant connections embellishing upon your single focused story line.

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Stage Fright: Why you get it – How to resolve it.

Stage fright is not a medical condition, nor does it have anything to do with one’s heritage.

It is, however, one of the single most misdiagnosed conditions of public speaking. As a result, it has had no substantive resolution – until now.

So what is it?

Symptomatically, it is easy to define. Butterflies. Excessive sweating. Turning red. Going blank. Tightness in the throat. These physical phenomena, easy to observe, have been the target of most ineffective solutions.

Deep breathing. Pick a spot at the back of the room. Imagine the audience naked. Take a drink. Take a pill. Notice how each solution targets the symptom, not the cause and this is what traditional solutions have typically focused on – the symp­toms.

The cause, however, is not physical. It’s mental. (If you can accept that thought can affect physical reaction, then you get it.)

You see a car coming at you. First, you’re scared (mental) then you immediately start sweating and feel flushed (physical).

So what’s the cause?

Our first tip off to the cause was noting that presenters’ nervousness always el­evated when confronted (faced with) with an actual audience. That’s when stage fright kicked into high gear. If the audience was asked to turn away from this same presenter their nervousness goes down pricipitiously. (We’ve tried this repeatedly with the same result). Therefore, we conclude that confronting (facing up to) a group of people has a lot to do with it.

Our second insight comes from observing how presenters who become engaged with their audience typically become calmer and more composed. We can, there­fore, deduce that trying to speak with “the group” and being “unengaged” are trig­gers to nervousness.

The solutions then become quite simple to execute.

1. Speak to individuals within the group instead of the group as a whole.

You do this by completing an idea with one audience member at a time. Look for some form of feedback and when you get it, move to the next person. If you do not get the feedback, no worries, just complete what you are saying to the person and move on to the next person.

You can also match the content with the person. In other words if you are speaking about sales, speak with the sales rep, franchise owner or CMO.

If on the other hand you’re speaking about consumer research findings, go over and speak with the companies analyst, consumer insights manager or sales reps looking for new ways to position the sale of their products.

Avoid scanning the room like a machine gun on automatic or spending too much time reading from and too your presentation aids. Both these serve to “avoid” speaking with the audience and inevitably perpetuate stage fright.

2. Engage with versus pitch to an audience.

It is one of the least utilized yet most persuasive methods of giving a presentation while substantially reducing the nerves.

Ask questions, give things out to the audience to touch and feel (products – both the audiences and their competitions), ask them to take notes on key points of the presentation, use examples and analogies to engage the audience mentally.

Plan when and where in your presentations you will engage until it becomes second nature to you.

Finally, for those of you who have trouble with the first few minutes of the presentation, this is where engaging the audience can pay off big time.

Before you start the actual presentation ask simple things like:

♦ “Did you recieve the Agenda we sent ahead by email? – Any questions?”

♦ “Since I know we are under a time pressure, are there any changes to the 30″ we have allot for this presentation?”

♦ “Lou, thank you for inviting the group together today. Are there any items you would like to add to the Agenda since our last discussion on Wednesday?”

In each case, you engage with the group before you actually start presenting. This calms things down and gets you ready to start the presentation with a greater sense of comfort.


Start every presentation or speech you give with a BANG.

B = Big

A = Amazing

N = Needed

G = Gift

Example: Today we are going to show you how to increase sales by at least 25% over that which you are currently enjoying.

Example: We are here to answer a single question. How do we compete against the likes of Wall-Mart, Target and Sears with a fraction of their budget?

Once you see the audiences response to the BANG, this inevitably gives you the needed feedback upon which to feed and confidently move to giving them the answer to that which you promised.

For further information on this or any other Louws training or consulting contact:

Client Service Director

Phone: (520)664-1881

Email: info@louwstraining.com


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Presenting Re-engineered

You are attending a Presentation Skills training workshop.

For most, this conjures up “eye contact”, “voice modulation”, and “gestures” – great for phone, PDF, iPad and web presentation applications are they not?

How we sell today is dramatically different to as recently as 5 years ago.

Power Point and Keynote have been replaced by PDF files, Webinars and Video.

In person is being replaced by teleconferencing.

Boards replaced by streaming video and e-mail attachments.

The advent of Twitter, Utube, Facebook and Blogs have all but changed how we sell before we present.

Re-schooling, re-tooling and re-practicing have become paramount to survival.

Following is an overview of the critical presentation skills needed in today’s business environment.

Persuasive Communication Skills

Fortunately, communication is still communication. Its delivery systems are the only real changes.

“It’s not only what you say – it’s how you say it”, is about the only idiom that has stood the test of time.

However, with the advent of technology, which itself emphasizes the facts over the style, it’s become critical to find a way to make the facts interesting enough to listen to, as your “personality” is often not there to hold your audience’s attention.


1) Do not make a key point until you have “enticed” the audience to listen to it. Therefore – “set-up” your point before you say it, as a barker would do at the circus or stage manager on a talk show.

2) Whenever possible pre-sell by sending persuasive insights and/or facts by email, text, etc. – each helping you remotely set up your presentations.

3) Have one-on-one or small group teleconferences to pre-sell your final ideas. Let the audience engage and suggest. These are precursors, not recommendations.

Persuasive Organization Skills

We see that the premise:

¨ tell ‘em whatcha gonna tell ‘em,

¨ tell ‘em, and

¨ tell ‘em whatcha jus’ t’ol ‘em”

…is no longer a workable formula.

It is what many have called the “story telling” approach.

The contemporary challenges facing today’s presenters include:

♦ Audiences have little to no time to listen to anything other than the immediate answers to the questions they had walking into the presentation;

♦ Groups in organizations listen to information differently (as do individuals within those groups); and

♦ If you can’t persuade, but only inform (the tell ‘em format) your contemporary audience quickly gets a case of the “I’ve no time for this drivel” syndrome.

For any of you reading this, you know today you must poignantly and efficiently prove your point or go home.

The Solutions:

♦ Learn how people listen and evaluate data and customize your message to this;

♦ Learn how to structure an argument (do not misinterpret to mean “argumentative”) in such a fashion that it becomes “obvious” that your P.O.V. and recommendations are well evidenced and stand up to scrutiny.

Action #1:

Match how you state your key point to how the audience likes to “listen” to information.

Your tool to this is to find out what types of reading material they prefer. This will lead you to the way they have programmed themselves to receive information.

For example – if their favorite way to get information is to read Google articles or the morning newspaper – then you know you’d better get to the point in as few words as possible.

 Action #2:

Start all presentations with what you are “Promising” the audience will get out of the presentation that they would consider of value.

Then follow with “evidence” that delivers upon your opening promise.

Presentation Aids

Albeit the mediums have made dramatic advances, messages are still messages.

Hollywood, Disney and Broadcast became our new teachers. After all, it’s what they do better than any pundit of the famous Power Point™ or Keynote™ presentation.

We discover some absolute truths.

♦ Aids are there to “assist” the presenter in making the point not to be the point.

♦ When the presenter is not available such as in the case of emailed PDF’s and the like, then the aid is the presenter and should be developed with the same care as one would develop one’s personality and social graces when presenting in person.


1) Think of anything you use to aid you in making your point as a “fellow presenter”.

Therefore. First, when it’s making the point – shut-up.

2) Secondly, the aid should sufficiently make the point that you do not now have to “re-explain” it.

Therefore, your aids should only show what you want said allowing you to then highlight it, not restate it.

Handling Objections and Tough Questions

Fortunately, we’ve previously had much of this subject well researched, explored and conquered.

An acronym to remember when answering a “why” question is – P.R.E.P.

P = Point – this is where you repeat the point of the question

R = Reason – give the reasoning behind your answer typically started with the word “because”

E = Example – this is where you give an example to explain and support the point (vs. giving a long winded explanation)

P = Point – this is where you restate the original answer (point) with words such as “so that’s why…”

Case in Point:

Question by you of your personal financial adviser: “Why should I save 10% of all our income?”

P = You should save 10% of your income as a just in case emergency fall back fund.

R = Because in this business climate, keeping a job for 35 years is a thing of the past.

E = For example, in 2011 the average marketing job had an 18 month tenure.

P = That’s why you should save 10% of your income.

The biggest Challenge of today’s presenter

Formal, group, stand-up and staged presentations have dramatically given way to informal, sit down, unstaged group meetings.

However, the classic business purpose of both has remained the same.

Function remains, form has changed.

On the other hand, these presentations are quicker, livelier, less structured and most importantly, more critical in terms of what they must accomplish today.

The Solutions:

Manage this chaos by:

1) Manage message length.

Poignancy versus blah! blah! – trying to make the audience submit through the sheer volume of content we can shower on them.

2) Manage priorities of messages.

Building one’s case is only as practical as one has the audience’s attention while doing so – therefore seek to re-prioritize critical content in order to maintain group attention and interest.

3) Managing inattentiveness.

Speaking louder has been a favorite fall back technique of presenters of old.

Nothing could be further from practical in today’s meeting room.

Instead, manage:

a) beneficial relevance of content, and

b) individual reference to people in the audience especially when you are presenting remotely.

As you can see, both a and b above can be tied together. Example: “Joe, (individual reference) you will see that the CPM’s dropped for the third quarter (beneficial relevance).”

A final word

Today, presenting is the subtle, highly technical and persuasive skill of working through live and remote electronic mediums and a cacophony of interruptions to ensure your message, as intended, is heard, understood, consensually agreed to and signed off on.

Be Brief.

Be Relevant.

Be of Value.

Toni Louw
Louws – CEO & Founder

About the author:

Over the past 34 years, Toni Louw has trained, coached and consulted with over 480 Brand advertising, promotion, direct marketing, digital, interactive, social, media and public relations agencies worldwide. This has also included over 50 of the top 150 brands internationally.

Toni has recently re-constructed and updated, for 21st Century business application, 18 different business critical subjects that has made Louws one of the most ubiquitous leader of innovative performance based training, coaching and consulting services worldwide.

Click on the link provided: Stellar Meeting Presentation Skills© for more information on Presentation Skills Training,Coaching and Consulting.

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