Three lessons from the art of copywriting

by Olivia Mitchell

I believe that a great presentation starts with great content. The art of writing can teach us a lot about how to create that great content. Here’s a recent post on copywriting that I think presenters can learn from:

Three sticky ways to hold reader attention by Sonia Simone

Here are the three points that she makes:

  1. Pair your copy with an arresting image
  2. Use questions to capture and keep reader attention
  3. Get nitty gritty.

How does this apply to presentations:

1. Pair your copy with an arresting image

In the presentation world I see many people use the first image that they find that seems to fit. Sonia reminds us to find images that evoke emotion and curiosity.

2. Use questions to capture and keep reader attention

We can use questions to get the audience thinking. But many presenters use questions awkwardly. Some people are desperate to get audience interaction and throw out unplanned questions just to get some feedback from the audience. These achieve nothing and can leave the audience bewildered. Questions should be carefully planned to get the audience to actively process information. So don’t make them too easy, don’t make them too hard. Test them out on a few people – you’ll be surprised at the variety of answers that come back. Then refine them to increase the likelihood that you’ll get the type of answers you want.

3. Get nitty gritty

Put in specific detail but don’t overdo it. This is a trap that many people fall into. In an earlier post Sonia shows how to do this without overdoing it.

Strip out as many adjectives and adverbs as you can. You don’t have to take them all out, but these modifiers are more powerful when they’re used sparingly. Whenever you can, make adjectives unnecessary by using a more specific noun or verb. Experiment to see how much you can cut and still keep your meaning.

Before: The gleaming red motorcycle’s engine roared loudly as the bike raced down the street and turned the corner amazingly quickly.

After: The Ducati snarled around the corner.

I’ve subscribed to a number of writing blogs to improve my writing- and seen parallels with presenting. Here are the writing blogs I subscribe to:

Copyblogger by Brian Clarke

Probably the best known- and has excellent resources – dig into the archives for a complete writing course. Also has guest bloggers contributing  – that’s how I discovered the next one on the list.

Remarkable communication by Sonia Simone

I love Sonia’s straightforward simple style of writing. Occasionally strays from writing to give us lessons from life.

I’ve just subscribed to The Writers Bag by Steve Osborne – I’ll let you know later what I think of this one.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

James July 18, 2008 at 6:10 pm

These are some great tips. I wasn’t a big fan of using images with my articles, but you’re absolutely right about how they can grab attention. I’ve noticed that the posts without images in their previews on my blog don’t get read as much as those with images.

Good info,

James
blog.jvf.com

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