Secret to Stickiness Factor and Ideavirus–Try the R.A.T.E.R. Checklist for Success

When you sit down to outline your next presentation, think about the Georgetown Cupcake story. As you watch the video see if you can identify some the principles of  the ” stickiness factor” in communicating and how ideas go viral. Seth Godin, author  and  marketer, in his book Unleashing the Ideavirus provides powerful examples of successful persuasion and influence of the ideavirus concept. Now your challenge is to develop your own checklist for creating your own ideaviruses for your next presentation. I have developed one called the R.A.T.E.R. checklist that you may find helpful:

RATER Checklist: How to apply Adult Learning Principles and Sticky Learning Techniques to your presentations.

R. Relevant to experience and daily lives of participants. Tap into their needs and wants. Meet their expectations to learn something they can use.

A. Assurance that your ideas have merit and basis in fact and experience–make your case evidence based with best practices woven in to emotional solutions.

T. Create a message that is tangible ( concrete, specific and practical) not a high level theory. Keep message simple. appeals to sensory and visual needs of the audience. Let them discover the answers. Make the message tangible.

E. Focus on showing empathy and understanding of the audience POV by telling emotional and feeling stories. Meet expectations and tap into members experience through involvement and interaction.

R. Be responsive to audience questions, skepticism and challenges.  Use CPR technique (clarify mis-understandings, paraphrase and restate audience comments and input, reflect audience feelings and degree of support or disagreement) and active listening to connect with the audience. For example, when you are asked  for opinion deflect question to the group to stimulate discussion and generate ideas. Then summarize comments and agreements/disagreements  before giving your expert advise or opinions on the topic being discussed.

Additional Learnings from Case Study interaction that support Adult Learning Principles:

  1. Make the learning points and objectives clear, concise and compelling.
  2. Bury problems in the case to facilitate problem solving and discovery learning.
  3. Create surprises –forcing participants to use reflection- in- action processes (asking for ideas of other participants or making new assumptions) and after outcome/results are gathered learners reflect-on- action taken and new knowledge to broaden their zone of master.
  4. Ask challenging and ” reflective on action” type of questions–The best presenters don’t structure their presentations by thinking, “What’s the next slide or point I should make?” Instead, they decide, “What’s the next question I want them to discuss and wrestle with so as to better understand the critical role physician assistant’s play in a patient’s recovery.


1. Stories and relevant examples of key concepts or points are the foundation of a memorable and “sticky” presentation.

If you use only one tip, this is the one. The #1 mistake I’ve observed in presentations—and there is no close second—is that the message in many presentations is generally too abstract or theoretical. The presenter offers concepts and conclusions but not evidence and specific examples of how to apply the concept. He talks at a high level about the big picture, but gives no concrete details that might make the big picture understandable and relevant to listeners. Most people communicate with, say, 3 concepts to 1 part example. That’s exactly backwards. In a compelling presentation, examples are the glue to understanding complex concepts.

A presentation is a sequence of concrete examples and stories are glued together to form a compelling argument or idea. For instance, think of the examples that Al Gore used in his movie An Inconvenient Truth: The before and after photos of Mt. Kilimanjaro, showing the vanishing snow caps. The Cupcake Story you just reviewed. Let be get a tangible feel or sense for the product. Tap into their senses.

I realize that in a technical or scientific presentation data , charts and analysis are a necessity. Data can be experienced as esoteric and abstract unless we make it more relevant through emotional or powerful stories that are easier to identify with, understand and remember.  But because data is pretty abstract, you should resist the pattern that many speakers use — by leading with the data/numbers or to trying to let the data stand alone as a learning tool. Which is more compelling? Saying that there are “150,000 poor adults with AIDS in West Virginia and we need your help to start solving the problem.” Or telling a story about the struggles of a 25-year-old ex-marine and signal mom, and then saying, “Our research suggests that there are 20,000 stories like this, in Parkersburg WV. alone, and we need your help to start solving the problem.” Data are just summaries of thousands of stories—tell a few high powered stories to help make the data come alive and be relevant to your audience.

Good Luck on designing your checklist for “stckiness” and don’t miss out really connecting with your next audience.