“Stage” Your Presentation

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If you’ve ever sold or shopped for a house or apartment, you know that staging your home has become de rigueur for finding a buyer and getting a good offer.

An article in the New York Times, “Ruthless Came the Home Stager”  describes the art of staging. My take-away? A good home stager is a good presenter…of a house. In fact, a good staging job is a lot like a good presentation.

Let’s take a look at some of the similarities, referencing information from the article:

1. Have One Main Message 

“You just want to have one broad stroke of gorgeousness.”

Broker John Gomez knows that a good stager prepares a house so that viewers take away one main message: “This place is gorgeous!” Then when they look at the cabinetry, the finishes, the appliances…it’s within the context of their bigger picture understanding of the place. All the details contribute to and reinforce that impactful main message of beauty.

It’s the same with a presentation. A good presenter establishes one main message: the one thing she wants the audience to leave with. As in a beautifully detailed home, the presentation’s sub-points, stories and supporting evidence help define and reinforce the bigger picture, take-away message.

2. Streamline

“The job of stagers is to reverse the accumulated creep of hundreds of small and misguided design decisions, and to erase any hints of the messiness of daily life.”

A good home stager simplifies the household. He takes away everything that’s doesn’t contribute to the positive, bigger picture message he wants the home to portray.

An effective presentation will also be simple and streamlined. The presenter makes the take-away message and points very clear. If points and data do not support the main message, whether directly or indirectly, they can probably be left out.

3. Appeal to your audience

“We’re not selling furniture or interior design; we’re selling the strong emotional reaction buyers get when they enter an apartment,” says home stager, Cheryl Eisen.

An apartment will evoke different feelings in different people, but a good stager knows the audience she is catering to and stages accordingly.

She knows that in order for a viewer to become a buyer, the apartment must touch him, positively, on an emotional level. So she creates an environment that is most likely to evoke an emotional response in her target audience such as, “this place feels like home.” A well-staged apartment elicits feelings in the viewer that make him “need” to live there.

Likewise, an effective presentation will have personal relevance to the listener and touch him on an emotional level. The presenter must know her target audience’s needs and interests and speak to them. What moves them in business and as humans?

The speaker must pay great attention to ensuring the audience knows she “gets them” and to speaking in a way that they can take in personally. Stories, personal anecdotes, analogies, asking the audience questions…all help engage the audience and create an emotional connection with them.

4. Evoke emotions

“Then [home stagers] add touches to win over potential buyers, whispering to their subconscious in the language of floor-to-ceiling curtains, Arne Jacobsen Egg Chairs and strategically placed Hermès shopping bags.”

Let’s say the broadest message is, “it’s gorgeous!” and the stager wants the house feel like home to the target audience. He’ll need to include details that evoke feelings in the viewer, whether moving them with grandeur, appealing to their aspirations or to their sense of nesting. It’s the strong emotional response to a house that will move a viewer to make a bid.

In presenting, connecting with the audience personally and engaging them emotionally is much more memorable and persuasive than dumping data. After all, emotions, not pure data, move people to action. Use stories or anecdotes to exemplify and flesh out your points. Represent data in terms people can relate to humanly. Instead of just a number, make a meaningful comparison: “1,300,00 handbags sold. That’s one handbag for each person in the state of New Hampshire!”

5. Be Specific

“Never overestimate the imagination of a buyer: a desk may not read as a desk unless you slap a laptop on it.”

A good stager knows that if you want someone to view a room as an office, show them an office. If you have something specific in mind, don’t leave it open to interpretation.

In a presentation, you want something from the audience: to buy into your idea, to adopt a new protocol, to hire you or to learn about something, etc. And they need a good reason to do it. Tell them exactly what you want them to do and what’s in it for them.

6. People are People

One last similarity: According to the article, many home sellers are resistant to a stager putting half their belongings and their family photos in storage. Even if it means a much enhanced sale price, it’s rough to have your house filled with strange designer furniture and portraits of a pet you don’t own.

Similarly, once they’ve written it, many presenters don’t take too well to cutting anything out of their presentation, even if doing so would make it more compelling and effective.

In general, people are very proprietary about their “stuff.” Although it’s hard to override human nature, I’ve seen people learn to relax that tight grip after they deliver their first “well-staged” presentation.

Until the next time…

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