Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Presentations That Sell

Let me start by saying that I really like Seth Godin.  I have his site in my RSS feed, I have his facebook page "liked", and I'll even periodically refer back to his site for the mountain of great content and ideas that he has.  In fact, if you're reading this let me highly recommend that you do the same.  Seth is easily one of the foremost marketing minds alive right now.

Having said that, there are times that he can get a bit ... opinionated about things that actual objective facts don't always back up.

Case in point is his opinions regarding presentations.  He talks about the right and wrong way to do a presentation somewhat often.

The issue that I have is that in all too many instances his opinions about presentations and how to properly do them is just objectively wrong.

In his post "Really Bad Powerpoint" Seth offers five "rules".

Now lets compare those rules to a "Ryan Deiss" style "presentation" at and you can see good ol' Ryan pretty much nukes every single "rule" Seth had to offer.

Seth says that a slide really shouldn't contain words, and should contain only graphics to back up what you have to say, shouldn't transition ... and so on.

Ryan Deiss when he does a presentation, his slides are NOTHING but the words being spoken with nearly zero graphics used at all throughout the entire thing.

Now I know that Ryan tests the living daylights out of everything, but did he test his method for doing presentations against Seth's ... or against something else?  Because I wasn't sure, I had to test it for myself.

You see, to me and my anal split-test-everything mind, the question becomes pretty obvious, "which method of doing presentations actually works better?"

No opinions, no wondering, no guessing, no choosing one over the other out of personal preference or because you like one of the presenters over the other ... actual objective FACTS.

Well, the answer becomes ... it depends.

So before I give you the results, let me explain how I tested.

I used basic A/B split testing across 10,000 visitors to one of my sites.  In each, the visitor was given nothing but a page with a video on it.  At the point the video only had 1 minute left, a subscription box would appear below the video and the video would direct people to subscribe to get the rest of the videos in the series.

There was no cost or anything, just enter a name and email address to get the videos, and that's it.  Now I'm going to say this repeatedly because it's important.  The words that I spoke were 100% the same in each video.  The only thing that changed was the visual elements.  Basically I wanted to know which visual style, Seth's or Ryan's, worked better.

But then there was a problem.  Seth gives a couple of different ideas for creating good presentations so which worked better?  Not only that, but because this was web video, would it be better for me to be in the video as the slides were shown or not?

That meant I had to do a few split tests.

Split Test #1:
Sample A) Followed the 5 rules, each slide represented a single idea with no transitions between the slides, the 8 minute presentation only had 4 slides.  The video was a screen capture and used only my voice, I was not visible in the video, only the slides were.

Sample B) Same as sample A ... EXCEPT that the "screen flow" application on my mac was used so that I could be shown giving the presentation along with the slides showing to the right side.

Results) In 10,000 visits split evenly between the two sample B obtained 11% more subscribers.

This test was done to determine how important keeping things "moving" in the presentation was.

Split Test #2:
Sample A) I used the "atomic" method Seth talks about.  The 8 minute presentation had 23 slides and showed only the slides in the video.

Sample B) Same as sample A except that again "screen flow" was used so that I could be in the video also with the presentation slides showing to the right side.

Results) In 10,000 visits split evenly between the two, sample B obtained 2.2% more subscribers.  Allowing for some statistical variance this is basically break even.

Split Test #3:
Sample A) The "winning" sample from Split Test #1
Sample B) The "winning" sample from Split Test #2

Results) In 10,000 visits Sample B obtained 9% more subscribers.

In other words, "keeping things moving" in the video presentation is of extreme importance.  At this point however I've only tested Seth's way of doing things.

One thing I want to point out is that in every video so far, the words that I actually spoke were the same.  The only variation was the information on the slides and whether or not the viewer of the video got to see me speak and move.

So now it was time to see how Ryan's method stacked up.  Understand that once again, the actual words I spoke were the same, only the visual element was different.

Split Test #4:
Sample A) Used a Ryan Deiss style where the words appeared sub-seconds before I spoke them.
No slide transitions were used, but only one sentence (typically) per slide was used to keep the slides moving. This was a basic screen capture video without me in it, only the words and the sound of my voice.

Sample B) The winning sample from Split Test #3

Results) In 10,000 visits Sample A obtained 36% more subscribers.

The difference between the two was so dramatically different that I tested this again with 10,000 visitors on another site in another market that I work in ... and saw nearly identical results.

I tried it a third time with a client's site and again got nearly identical results.  In other words, for doing web video where the end result is designed to get a person to take a specific action, Ryan's method obliterates Seth's.

A simple presentation with words appearing on screen right before you say them, and a slide never having too many words before the slide moves away to the next plain and simply out performs any method of doing presentations recommended by Seth ...

But Wait!

Don't think for a second that this tells the entire story.

You see, the numbers change significantly when you are doing a presentation in person.  If you are physically in the room with the other person.

I'm going to skip the whole detailed explanation of the tests that I performed and just give you the bottom line.

Seth's rules for doing a presentation with one slide to represent a single idea, VERY few (or better yet no) words on a slide, heavy use of graphics to represent the idea you are conveying, no slide transitions, not giving "notes", and leaving a written (as in prose, not a simple print out of your slides) "leave behind" works FAR better.

In face-to-face sales presentations, doing things Seth's way obliterates every other method.

Now I'll have to admit that I was extraordinarily surprised to see results that were diametrically opposite based only on the fact that the person was watching a video on the web versus if the presentation is face to face.

However, the numbers don't lie.

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