Stuck on How to Design Your next Speech? Use the proven Design Framework Called R.A.T.E.R.


” A presentation is a sequence of concrete examples and stories that snap together to form a compelling argument…If you use only one tip, this is the one. The #1 mistake we’ve observed in presentations—and there is no close second—is that the message is too abstract. The presenter offers concepts and conclusions but not evidence. He talks at a high level about the big picture, but gives no concrete details that might make the big picture understandable and plausible. He may sprinkle in a few stories or examples, but they are treated like garnish. Most people communicate
with, say, 3 parts exposition to 1 part example. That’s exactly backwards. In a compelling presentation, examples aren’t garnish, they’re the entrée”. Heath Brothers from the article Presentations Made to Stick 

As a speaker and communicator, you are the one who is shooting the “free throw to win” the game. You must “stick it” to win. You must have the right mindset, relaxed muscles and arc to make the shot.  Every single day, you are delivering messages and trying  to make ideas stick and persuade others to change or behave in a certain way.  So how do you connect with and make messages stick? Trying using the R.A.T.E.R. 

  • RESPONSIVEchallenge your audience with something new or ideas they can use. Be responsive to their interest and needs. Answer questions as they are asked. Do not put people off by saying, ” I will answer it later”. Be “quick on your feet” and adapt to audience interest and needs. If you are not sure you are meeting their expectations ask them. For example, how are we doing here? Is this information meeting your expectations? If not change directions. Don’t ignore the disinterested looks or signs of boredom.
  • ASSURANCE- provide credible information and examples of idea or solution benefits and how it has worked in the past. Use powerful examples and stories to assure audience that your message has importance to their situation the ideas being presented are credible.
  • TANGIBLES-bring concrete ideas and provide pragmatic examples or metaphors that make the ideas less abstract. Avoid generalizations and professional jargon. Make message clear, concise and concrete. This is the spot to provide demonstrations or if possible physical prototypes, so audience members can see and touch what you are talking about.
  • EMPATHY-Show the audience that you care and understand their problems, skepticism, views  and ideas. Obviously, presenting facts and evidence in your speech are important, but connecting with the audience requires both empathy and an emotional message.
  • RELEVANT  information needs to be presented along with pragmatic audience-centered solutions and ideas that raise the audience members curiosity and interest in what you have to say. In addition, try to sprinkle your speech with supportive evidence and stories showing the benefits, viability and urgency of  your ideas so that attitudes can be changed and action initiated to improve their quality of life.

Want to be a “Sticky” presenter focus on making your communication visible and tangible

We have reviewed and explained how to use the R.A.T.E.R. checklist  tool for more effective and “sticky” presentations in another blog on the Wick

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 or concrete by using physical objects and specific fact-based evidence.

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.

In the book Made to Stick, the Heath brothers argue that concreteness or tangibility “helps us understand– it helps us construct… insights on the building blocks of our existing knowledge and perceptions.” They suggest that tangible or concrete ideas “stick” better and are easier to remember and spreed to others. Nothing lends concreteness to ideas more obviously than the use of  physical objects or specific scientific-based  evidence.

A physical object is something tangible that the presenter brings forward to show and let them touch during the presentation—it can be a book, rock, picture or factual idea. The reason to use one is if its presence lends more concreteness and provides more interaction and discussion to your presentation. Does the physical object make something clear that is confusing? Does the a tangible provide and reinforce a visual explanation of something abstract? Does the physical model or fact  make your presentation more grounded in reality rather than theory? Use it only if you answered yes to those three questions. Don’t use a physical object or concrete fact in a casual way. Use it as a center piece of your presentation to connect and engage the audience.

Make it Memorable

Now in order to be an idea virus or something audience members will want to go out and tell others about you must also make your message memorable, clear, concise and compelling. Demonstrations, physical object and startling facts can create some of the most dynamic, memorable moments in a presentation. Audiences are very likely to remember the prop you used, and what you did with it, so don’t stumble in your presentation or your risk will not be worth the benefit you were seeking. Ensure that your tangible object has a dynamic, unforgettable purpose in your presentation. If there’s a chance it’s going to be perceived as a gimmick or fall flat with the audience, or its purpose is not relevant enough to the topic at hand, don’t use it.

When presentations disappoint, one cause most likely starts with a failure to recognize that presentations are two-way communication processes and that boredom comes quickly when audience members get lost on too much information or you have not painted or provide reality based tangibles for the audience members to engage and interact with.

Consider ways a Tangible can strengthen and intensify your presentation. If you’re speaking about a device, it’s fitting to show the audience the device at the beginning of your pitch. If you’re reporting a statistic, it’s very effective to make the visual “stick” by bring out a tangible object. Be creative! Have fun with it. And take the risk to enhance your performance and message please share your stories with the rest of the Wick Community.

Want to be experienced as a “Truth Teller”—Think Straight, Speak Straight…

Think straight, Speak Straight by using common, clear and tangible language  and audience will pay attention and believe you.

The point I am going to try to model for you is simple: I want to provide a believable  message about thinking straight, and speaking straight and it’s effect on you being perceived as a truth teller.  To expand on this I want you to use a common language understood by all that is jargon free, be clear in what you want to do and say, make the message concise and tangible.

There are all sorts of ways language can communicate truth. Here are some solid facts for you:

  • People usually judge that more details mean someone is more creditable
  • We find stories that are more visual and vivid to be more true,
  • To influence people provide concrete facts make think the events more likely. ( don’t overload with facts.)

Here is another study that gives us some guidance;  by Hansen and Wanke (2010). There findings support the idea of getting to your point early and repeating it often but not with the same words is a powerful way to be seen as credible  Don’t be vague or to general with your message; for example, ” We need more “green jobs” to reduce unemployment”. Instead be direct, concrete and keep your point simple to provide a compelling  reason for action. For example, “We need 250,000 “green jobs” by 2012 to reduce unemployment to 8%

Abstract words are handy for talking conceptually but they leave a lot of room for misunderstanding, spin and confusion by the receiver.  Tangible words,  pictures or a physical object are aligned  to something in the real world and they refer to it precisely. Solar panels and electric batteries is specific while green jobs could refer to anything that impacts the use of carbon..

Hansen and Wanke give three reasons why tangibility  suggests credibility and “truth telling”

  1. Our minds process concrete statements more quickly, and we automatically associate quick and easy with true .
  2. We can create mental pictures of concrete statements more easily. When something is easier to picture, it’s easier to recall, so seems more credible and believable.
  3. Also, when something is more easily pictured it seems more plausible, so it’s more readily believed.

So, think and  speak straight by making your message  visual, concise and  concrete and people will think it’s more true.