Category Archives: Research

Moving Mountains

A participant on a program recently worked on a presentation that was due in two days time. He delivered the presentation and I called him the day after: “How did it go Jim?”

“Not so good Justin”

“Why was that Jim, did you achieve your objective?”

“Yes I achieved everything I wanted to, but it just turned into a conversation”

Jim was stuck in an old school mindset of presenting – the “sage on the stage”.  What happened was his presentation turned into a conversation and he started to engage the audience because he was talking about things that are important to them – he nailed it!

So, the formulae we use to get the audience involved is what Andrew Abela calls the SCoRE method which is based on the work of Henry Boettinger in his book Moving Mountains. It works by juxtaposing tension and release – the formulae for all good stories.

SCoRE stands for:

Situation – what are you there to talk about – put simply in a few words

Complication – What’s the biggest problem the audience is facing.  This creates tension and the need.

Resolution – what’s the solution to that problem.  This creates the release and satisfies the need.

Example – provide some evidence as to why your resolution will work.

Then continue on with the next CoRE (Complication Resolution Example) for as long as you need to.

This simple formula enables us to craft a story, engage the audience and achieve our objective.

Boettinger, HM 1974, Moving mountains; or, The art and craft of letting others see things your way, 1st Collier Booksedn., Collier Books, New York,.

Evidence is everything

The reality principle states that you should always present evidence that is concrete rather than conceptual. Showing real things, real people and specific details makes your presentation more interesting, memorable and persuasive.

Andrew Abela (Abela 2013, p 37) suggests the following when thinking about your evidence:

  • Provide lots of relevant detail – it increases credibility.
  • Verify your facts – where did your evidence come from.
  • Understand the constraints that inhibit your audience from taking action.
  • Demonstrate that you understand these constraints.
  • Make it personal and reflect that you understand the realities in your audience’s lives.

It doesn’t matter what type of personality your audience has, concrete and particular evidence is important for everyone.

Abela, AV 2013, Advanced presentations by design : creating communication that drives action, 2ndedn., Pfeiffer, San Francisco.

Pitch: Step 5 Anecdotes

We have completed audience analysis, objective setting, defined the biggest problem and overall solution, and collected all our eveidence.  Now we are going add some stories or anecdotes.

Abela (2008) describes anecdotes this way:

“The idea here is not to replace the evidence you have gathered, but to emphasize it. A story is not proof; it is just illustration. A story doesn’t prove anything, but it does get your audience’s attention and can sometimes drive a point home much more than reams of data.”

Why do stories work? In the following diagram from David Yang, imagine your life running along the horizontal axis, with a couple of blips.  That’s what its like for most of us.  Now look at the Cinderella story which is the green line  – very dynamic and engaging and most importantly memorable.

kurt v


So the more interesting and engaing our anecdotes the more likely they are to be remembered.  The good part is they dont even have to be true – they can be hypothetical. Which is only ok if you tell your audience.

Yang, D 2019, Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories |, visually, viewed 22 Jan, <>.

Abela, AV 2008, Advanced presentations by design creating communication that drives action, San Franiso, Calif. : Pfeiffer, San Francisco, Calif.

Pitch: Step 4 Evidence

In previous posts we have covered

  1. who we are pitching to,
  2. what attitudes and behaviours we want to change and
  3. what the biggest problem the audience has and our overall solution.

Step 4 is collecting all the evidence that we have available to support our solution.  We need to draw as braodly as possible and access as many different types of evidence as possible to ensure we meet the needs of our audience. Andrew Abela (2008) describes 3 types of evidence that you can use to support your recommendation:

  1. Use real and specific (rather than abstract and general) data wherever possible.

  2. Include a variety of different types of evidence and arguments—including evidence against your proposals.

  3. Pay particular attention to what is new and different in your information. Try to avoid repeating the same, tired old “facts” that everyone else quotes.

The next post is how to incorporate anecdotes into your pitch.

Abela, AV 2008, Advanced presentations by design creating communication that drives action, San Franiso, Calif. : Pfeiffer, San Francisco, Calif.

Pitch: Step 3 What’s the problem?

The audience analysis has been done, we know what attitudes and behaviours we want to change, now we move onto understanding what the problem is. It’s important that we recognise that it’s the problem of the audience, not our problem!

Sometimes the problem is obvious because we are responding to a tender and the problem is clearly stated. However, if we have a product, service or idea we are pitching we need to have a clear understanding as to the problem this is solving for the audience.

To increase our probability of success that problem needs to be as painful for the client as possible.  At this step we are only interested in the biggest problem – not all the problems.

As Andrew Abela (2008) puts it, if you don’t know the problem – then you better find out!

Abela, AV 2008, Advanced presentations by design creating communication that drives action, San Franiso, Calif. : Pfeiffer, San Francisco, Calif.

Pitch: Step 2 What are you trying to achieve

In step 1, we looked at the audience and attempted to understand what was important to them and also how we can adapt our style to get a better connection.  It is worth noting that the planning phase is an iterartive process; we work back and forth through the steps as new information comes to hand.

Step 2 is about objective setting. This creates a framework around which we build our presentation.  It dictates what we need to do in the pitch. For example, if we say that we want the audience to believe that we are capable of delivering on our proposal, but they currently dont believe we have the skill, then we need to demonstrate in the pitch that we do.  Just to say we have a great team wont be sufficient.

The other benefit of setting an objective is that it keeps everyone on track.  If someone has a left field idea, then it is useful to refer back to the objective and ask how it will help the team meet the objective.

A useful model to use in setting an objective is the “from to think do” matrix (Abela 2008).  Here we simply ask, firstly, what is the audience currently thinking (attitude) and what do we want them to think and secondly, what are they curremtly doing (behaviour) and what do we want them to do.

The advantage of this matrix is that it gives us a metric to measure our success by. It also gives us a measure as to whether the objective is too big or too small.



Abela, AV 2008, Advanced presentations by design creating communication that drives action, San Franiso, Calif. : Pfeiffer, San Francisco, Calif.

Pitch: Step 1 Audience Analysis

After being clear on your topic, who you are presenting to (names and titles) and where the pitch is taking place, you are ready to dive into your audience analysis.

The fundamental purpose of Audience Analysis is to connect with each member of the audience so that they are more receptive to your your pitch.

Andew Abela (2008) gives us sound advice when thinking about our audience when he said that “if you routinely skip the step of thinking about the different personalities in the room, then there is a real risk that over time you will revert to accommodating only your own personality type and preferences.”

Given all the different possible combinations of styles and preferences that exist with an audience, there is probably a small probability that your style and preferences will match theirs. Therefore, it makes sense to adapt your pitch to the needs and interests and background of your audience (McMurray 2016). As a guide, this can be done by looking at the topics below. 

  1. Know your style and know the style of your audience. These include thinking about your:
    • Communication style, you can use any typology you like such as Myers Briggs,
    • Body language, such as posture, facial expression, gestures and voice,
    • Language, which includes vocabulary and
    • Dress, making it appropriate.
  2. Know what’s important to them individually including any views or opinions they have on what you are pitching.
  3. Build trust and credibility by reflecting back what you have heard or read in the brief for the pitch.
  4. Don’t assume anything. Check and double check.

Audience analysis can be tedious but it’s a confidence builder and will result in a more personalised and polished pitch.

The amount of time you spend on this step is reflective of the importance of the pitch.

Abela, AV 2008, Advanced presentations by design creating communication that drives action, San Franiso, Calif. : Pfeiffer, San Francisco, Calif.

McMurray, D 2016, 25. Audience Analysis, viewed <>.

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