Book review - Made to Stick by Dan/Chip Heath

Made to stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (find it here, affiliate link) is recommended reading for everyone who delivers presentations: it analyzes why certain stories "stick" in people's mind, and why others disappear, almost independent of the content: it's they way that they are told that matters.
  • Keep them simple without creating silly sound bites
  • Add unexpected twists to keep people interested
  • Be specific and avoid fluffy hollow statements (Dilbert mission generator style)
  • Be credible to get people to believe your idea
  • Add emotion to make people care
  • Tell stories
The book is written as a set of stories that are analyzed following the above framework. Sometimes this categorization can feel a bit forced (since most stories combine multiple elements), but generally it works well. Framework or not, the stories inside the book are the real treasure. They are interesting and fun to read (many of them still stick in my head). Besides the big idea of the book there are countless interesting bits of knowledge hidden in the stories. Some examples:
  • The brain stores stories in a "virtual 3D" space. Slightly absurd experiment: people read a sentence about a guy and a shirt slower when the shirt has just been taken off a few seconds ago. Your presentation structure and the structure used to absorb information is not the same
  • Being analytical, logical, thinking of numbers switches off your emotional mood: the mood in which you are most receptive to store information. Think about that when ordering slides
  • The curse of knowledge (actually this is a big idea in the book) prevents people from putting themselves in the shoes of an audience for which a concept that took you 3 years to understand might not sound as obvious as it seems to you
  • Another example of the curse of knowledge: when someone taps a song with his fingers on a table, he/she hears the entire performance including vocals, instruments, etc. A bystander just hears an irregular beat of taps...
  • 70% of learning can happen by just imagining, anticipating, thinking about the task ahead of you (scientifically proven): rehearse, rehearse, rehearse your presentation.
  • Negative "don't", "avoid this", "don't fall in this trap"-type recommendations stick better than positive ones: people learn from mistakes. This goes a bit against my marketing theory in business school though.
This book shows again how important it is to decouple structures you use to solve/analyze a problem from the story you use to tell the solution. Scrap all your analysis, nuances, balanced insights you built up (sometimes over a long period of time) and start with a blank piece of paper to think about the best possible way to tell your message to your audience.