When you present to an audience, you want them to focus on the message and remember it once you have said the last word. However, while you might have gained the attention of the audience, making them stay focused and attentive is another matter. You probably already know that a standard PowerPoint just doesn’t cut it. So how do you entertain the eye of the audience while also getting your message through?

The key might lie in using visual storytelling techniques, such as Whiteboard Telling. When I first discovered Whiteboard Telling, I was quite amazed that this apparently simple usage of sketches, easy-to-draw icons and figures could have such an energizing effect on an audience. Evidently, I’m not the only one wondering about its impact: in a recent set of experiments at Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Professor Zakary Tormala compared different visuals. In one of these experiments, participants were randomly assigned to view the same message presented in three different presentation styles[1]: a PowerPoint with bullet points and stock text; a “Zen” PowerPoint with metaphorical images and key phrases; and a whiteboard presentation with hand-drawn graphics.

The result? The whiteboard presentation significantly outperformed the others with regard to several important metrics:

  • On average, it caused a 9% improvement in engagement among participants and was characterized as clearer, more understandable and enjoyable than the “Zen” and traditional PowerPoint presentations
  • The whiteboard presentation improved recall of content by 16%
  • The presentation enhanced the persuasive impact of the message by 8%

These are just a few of the results from the experiment. But how come that Whiteboarding is so captivating? Well, one of the reasons is that it appeals to people’s curiosity. When the presenter draws on the whiteboard, the audience must pay attention to see how the drawing develops and this satisfaction of curiosity creates a lasting impression. Furthermore, a whiteboard presentation is more flexible than other visuals. You can adapt your message to your audience. You can elicit comments and integrate them in your presentation. And in a sales presentation, you can even ask your customer to participate in the presentation, thus creating the proposal together with your customer. This latter point is one of the most effective ways I know to make my customers take ownership of a proposal.

So how do you get started? Here’s the recipe:

  • Get all your ideas down on post-it notes and structure them by subject
  • Look at your main subjects and ideas: how can you illustrate them? Which key words must you include on the whiteboard? Draw your illustrations, cut them out and arrange them in a visually attractive way on your desk
  • Now practice delivering the presentation on a whiteboard until you know it by heart and you will be ready to impress your audience

Need more guidance? Look at our Whiteboard Selling workshop references and get in touch if you want to know whether Whiteboard Selling could work for you.

[1] All presentations were about ”the attention hammock” (a description of an audience’s interest that starts high, declines in the middle and rises again in the end) and all participants were shown the same information.