Dec 20 2008
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, written by Chip and Dan Heath, breaks down how ideas can be made more powerful and long-lasting by following a simple set of rules. This book focuses on what should be the essence of any business presentation – how to create a core message that resonates with an audience and causes them to act in a desired way. I highly recommend Made to Stick (five of five stars) as it is well-written and provides a pragmatic approach to forming sticky ideas – a crucial foundation for any great presentation.
Highlights from Made to Stick
You may have run across many of the concepts in Made to Stick in disparate sources or disciplines (e.g., business management, psychology, presentation design, etc.). The Heath brothers were able to bring together familiar concepts in a well-developed package, which can be used to formulate, build, and present successful messages.
Made to Stick explores six essential principles of sticky ideas:
- Simple: Find the core of the idea or central message by stripping away unnecessary details. It’s about elegance and prioritization – not necessarily dumbing something down.
- Unexpected: Surprise makes us pay attention and think. Open up knowledge gaps with your audience and then fill those gaps with the specific knowledge they are missing.
- Concrete: Real-world analogies and popular proverbs stand the test of time because they leverage concrete imagery and language (e.g., a bird in hand is worth two in the bush).
- Credible: Without credibility, a good idea may go nowhere. Without being an authority, people can use various strategies to establish credibility (e.g., vivid details, humanized statistics, testable credentials, etc.)
- Emotional: The goal of making messages “emotional” is to make people care. Feelings inspire people to act.
- Stories: Stories provide simulation (knowledge about how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act). Stories engage audiences and ask them to participate in your idea with you.
Another useful concept from this book is the Curse of Knowledge. Chip and Dan Heath share a Stanford psychology study that divided people into two groups – “tappers” and “listeners”. Each tapper was asked to tap out a well-known song (e.g., Happy Birthday to You), and the listener had to guess the song. Tappers predicted that listeners would guess 50% of the tapped songs, but they actually only guessed 2.5% of them.
The reason for this big difference is that tappers hear the song in their heads. The Curse of Knowledge is where it is difficult for us to imagine what it is like to not know something. I feel many death by PowerPoint situations are caused by the Curse of Knowledge. Business presenters sometimes forget to put themselves in the position of their audience, who don’t have the same tune playing in their heads.
The formation of great presentations happens well before someone opens any presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote. Whether you’re an aspiring PowerPoint apprentice or seasoned PowerPoint ninja, I strongly recommend this book as it will ensure the foundation of your PowerPoint presentations – your central message or idea – is solid. Not even PowerPoint ninjutsu can save a weak idea or message.
Check out Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die on Amazon.com today.
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