Presentations vs Acting and Theater for Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing, and Marketing Operations

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When creating content, when do we reach “good enough” versus putting in the extra time to make it great?

Many moons ago, I was working on a presentation for an event and would also be distributed online. Upon reaching a milestone, I had to sit back and wonder about our goal…what was the most effective way to get there…the optimal way? Was the output and preparation A++? Should it be? Of course, perfectionism is in my nature and probably a personality flaw. They say perfectionists are obsessive. Other words for obsessive? Addicted, dogmatic, fanatical, stubborn, willful, devoted. Yep, that can definitely describe me. Flaw or not? I guess that depends on your perspective. When it comes to revenue production, I don’t mind being called these things. Then again, plenty of successful people say, “the great is the enemy of the good.” I still have a hard time with that. I wonder if Steve Jobs would?

In any event…for everyone at the company to get paid and eat, we need to generate revenue. We need to maximize and optimize every minute and every dollar we spend in marketing. So, my question became…was our content good enough to engage the target audience and even have a chance of becoming a lead? Was it good enough to propel a lead into pipeline? Was it good enough to share instead of pay for advertising or other distribution? How do I know my content will achieve these things?

Content Competition in the Wild (Ecosystem of the Web)

My mind immediately went to the fact that any given piece of content has to compete in a major way. We aren’t talking about the top 2 or 3 or 5 competitors. We aren’t talking about some playoff bracket of 40 or 50 teams. We aren’t even talking about a marathon with thousands or tens-of-thousands of runners. We are talking about a competition against millions of pieces of content. I’ve gotten my share of #1 Google SERP rankings. Recently, I hit #1, and my content competed against almost 10 million other pieces (according to Google).

How will your presentation compete with a million others or 10 million online? With 100s of webinars? What about competing with 30 in-person event options available to business people?

The Application of Ecosystem Sciences

As a transdisciplinary designer at heart, I set out to explore the answer. Of course, I had my theories and historical experiences to draw from, but I wanted to gain a greater perspective. Where were there “presentations” that were truly captivating? Of course, movies can be this way. Music. Events. Sports. Theater. Viral videos. Spectacle.

What about business presentations? Where are these captivating?

Of course, there is the “Steve Jobs Method.” And, I’ll point out that Jobs formed Pixar with $10 million, became the Chairman, and ultimately sold it to Disney for $7.4 billion. Perhaps, just perhaps, Jobs applied some of the captivating presentation concepts from Pixar to business presentations? Maybe. Hard to say. There are also TED Talks, which take months and lifetimes to prepare.

A business presentation is an opportunity to spend a linear time period with an audience. If it is live, you have most of their attention and focus. Online, you hopefully have a good portion of attention and focus. In slideshare format, without audio tonality or facial expressions or movement in video, we are already engaging fewer neurons, scientifically. There is probably more limited attention and focus in some respects.

Where are there great examples of business presentations? And beyond…

Beyond TED or the Jobs method, the things that most captivate people are probably arts, athletics, and hobbies…oh…and puppies, kittens, babies, and sexual things. I decided to first explore the arts, particularly acting. While I don’t know how true it is, I’ve heard courtroom lawyers take acting classes to influence the jury…makes sense. We humans are emotional creatures. We all have friends who tend to be dramatic. Do they get attention? Yes. At least in limited quantities. Does TV grab us and suck us in? Movies? What do actors get paid to do?

Without referencing some formal definition. One could say that actors get paid to act out a story from the perspective of a character within the story. Actors get paid to behave in a way that makes you like them or hate them or want them to win or want them to lose. They get paid for you to connect with them emotionally. They get paid to represent the bond we have as humans…our flaws, our mistakes, our issues, our ability to overcome a challenge. They get paid to take our mind off of life, at least for a little while. They can be pretty powerful. People love them. Photographers chase them. The really successful (and somewhat lucky) ones tend to be wealthy and the other group tends to be on the poorer side, socio-economically.

Can we apply some of an actor’s skills to B2B presentations? What could we do without creating the wrong emotions for a B2B context? For example, sex sells…but it isn’t blatantly prevalent in B2B. Are there skills we can learn from places like toastmasters? Acting classes? Does emotion play a role? Surprise? Unexpected turns? Should every slide be art?

There is a lot to learn. It could be a whole book or a presentation. Hmmm.

Applying Acting and Theater Skills to B2B Sales Presentations

Here is a generic, starting laundry list of acting skills that I curated from a few sources. These can definitely be applied to B2B presentations. It also gives us a sense of how far B2B presentations can go, with the right skills, not just the actor, but the director, producer, prop master, creative director, cinematographer, make-up and hair, actors, etc…the list below is “just” acting-centric:

  • Movement
  • Vocal skills
  • Concentration techniques
  • Breaking down the communications process
  • Creating dynamic relationships
  • Using positive expectations to fight towards a goal
  • Perform scenes
  • Speaking loud and clear
  • Projecting your voice
  • Supporting your voice
  • Developing perfect diction and enunciation
  • Improving your presentation skills
  • Rehearsing
  • Performing for long periods
  • Working with a director
  • Deepening vocal techniques
  • Auditioning
  • Memorizing
  • Confidence
  • Grounding against nervousness
  • Knowing the questions of your audience
  • The concept of acting as a process and a craft
  • Understanding the needed skills
  • Analyzing scripts and characters
  • Heightening powers of observation, focus, invention, and imagination
  • Understanding commitment and discipline
  • Interpreting the script to present truthful behavior on stage

Looking at the list, it is clear that “B2C presentations,” like film, take this stuff pretty far, and it isn’t usually cheap to do.

The question is. How important is this in B2B presentations? Do we make them good or great? Which is going to produce the most effective result for the time and money invested? Is progress better than perfection?

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