Mind the GAPP to be more persuasive

Be intentional with every aspect of developing and delivering persuasive presentations by following these Generally Accepted  Presentation  Principles.

Be intentional with every aspect of developing and delivering persuasive presentations by following these Generally Accepted Presentation Principles.

If you’ve traveled to Europe, you’re familiar with the phrase, “Mind the Gap.” This is an appeal to warn travelers on railway platforms to make a conscious and intentional decision before entering a train car.

Just as travelers need to act with intent, presenters need to “Mind the GAPP™” and focus strategically on how best to develop and deliver a persuasive presentation. I’ve sythesized my best counsel into a methodology I created, called “GAPP.” This acronym stands for Generally Accepted PRESENTATION Principles.

You may have heard of GAPP before. You might be thinking of GAAP, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. According to Investopedia, GAAP refers to a common set of accepted accounting principles, standards, and procedures that companies and their accountants must follow when they compile their financial statements. GAAP improves the clarity of financial information.

There are similar principles in many different professions. To build steps, construction experts use rise / run for height and depth of steps. Physicians know what tests to run based on the symptoms of each patient. The same approach holds true for presenters. When presenters mind the GAPP they become more persuasive and get others to agree more often.

Here’s a summary of the fundamental GAPP components:

Step 1 – CONCEPT

First, lock down the concept of your presentation.

Think Excellence, Not Difference – Establish what makes you great, not different, among your competition. Create a sustainable position of excellence. For example, McDonald’s owns the position, “I’m loving it.” UPS asks, “What can brown do for you?” Allstate owns “You’re in good hands,” not “You’re in stronger hands.” These are sustainable, long-term positions of excellence.

Think / Feel / Do – Start with the end-in-mind. When you finish your presentation, what do you want your audience to think, feel and do? Think focuses on the left brain – the logical, linear and mathematical part. Feel involves the right brain – values, passions and heart. Do – what, specifically, do you want the recipient to do?

Storytelling – People don’t remember facts and figures. Stories resonate. Determine what stories will convey your key concepts.

Step 2 – CONTENT

Now is the time to add words and images. Many people often mistakenly start with this step.

Recipient-Oriented Communications – It’s not what “you want” to say; it’s what “they need” to hear. Determine what your audience needs to hear. How you tell your story changes completely depending on their perspective.

Words, Pictures and Numbers – Now we shift to being mindful of the visuals or the visual descriptions that accompany your story. Strategically choose words, pictures and numbers to increase the effectiveness of your message. Each visual should reinforce the main concept you are trying to communicate. A variety of techniques makes your presentation more interesting and it is more likely to resonate with a broader audience.

Less is More – When you think you’re done developing your content, cut the bottom 20%. There is a limit to how much people can absorb in one presentation. Trim your content to help ensure the audience focuses on exactly what you want them to know.


Now that you’re finally done preparing your content, it’s time to start practicing your delivery.

Confidence and Enthusiasm – The most important traits to demonstrate when delivering a persuasive presentation are confidence and enthusiasm. This is not cheer squad enthusiasm (no pom-poms!) but it is important to show genuine enthusiasm and appear confident.

Read and React – When we are presenters, we must be able to read our audience and react. If you sense boredom or information overload, you need to revise on the fly. Remember, your job isn’t to just deliver your presentation; it’s to get the audience to agree with you.

Eyes / Body / Voice – When you are the presenter, you are like an actor or actress in a show. A good actor uses eye contact, body language and voice to reinforce the meaning of their lines. Think about the totality of your performance. Your presentation should be an immersive experience.

Walk Through / Run Through / Dress Rehearsal – Now is the time to start saying your presentation aloud. I always suggest three rehearsals:

  1. Walk-through – Say what you’re going to say. Say, “I’ll start with A, transition to B, etc.” From A to Z, make sure all of the intended content is included or eliminated and all of the pieces are in the right sequence. This is your final content check. This is also when we start to build in threads or lattice work to earlier parts of your presentation or to a team presenter to add depth and substance to your message. Now, go practice.

  2. Run-through – Actually articulate all the words aloud, click through your slides if you have them, pause during anticipated interruptions, go slow on key points, etc. This is when we practice Q&A with particular attention to “questions we hope we don’t get.” Now, go practice some more.

  3. Dress – Always run through your presentation in front of colleagues before giving your presentation to your intended audience. The dress rehearsal is usually harder than presenting to a prospect. Now, you’re ready for showtime.

These three core steps and the principles explained above form the foundation of how best to develop and deliver persuasive presentations.

Step 4 – Customize every presentation

GAPP becomes your blueprint for building your presentation, but just like building a home, even with the plans in hand, there are best practices that you should follow to customize and complete your new home. Which materials go together the best? What products need to be delivered and installed before the others? How do you ensure your materials, colors and furnishings create the overall feeling you desire?

Within the GAPP blueprint are dozens of constructs that will help you develop and deliver your presentation more effectively. For example, one construct is MACRO / MICRO, a terrific way to demonstrate a proof point.

The GAPP methodology applies whether you have a sales call, client meeting, or planning session. Remember, every single presentation is unique, even if you’re sharing the same content multiple times. One size never fits all. Customization is the key to long-term success.

Understanding and incorporating the GAPP principles is the foundation step to becoming a more effective and confident presenter. Mind the GAPP and you will be more persuasive.


PS. If you’d like a copy of my GAPP blueprint please email me.