This is not a joke. It is, instead, the best single piece of advertising either of us ever saw.

It was prominently displayed by a highway in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Why is it so effective? First, it is mercifully short. Five words. The writer was a master at communicating a world of information in as few words as possible. We immediately knew there was a place to stop up ahead. In addition, we knew that we would be able to get something to eat. And, that, if we needed to entertain our daughter, she could go look at the snake.

Did we learn what kind of food they served, the quality of the restrooms or the exact make and model of the snake? No, there was no time. The human mind can only absorb so much information at 60 miles per hour. If the advertiser had added extraneous information – like “juicy hamburgers” images-snakeor “20 foot Burmese python,” we would have missed the whole thing.

Instead, the advertiser gave us the essence of the message. It was just the right amount of information to help us make a buying decision. We’ll also point out that the message did a masterful job of prequalifying buyers. It immediately eliminated people who didn’t need to stop, weren’t hungry, or weren’t big fans of snakes, large or small.

Many advertisers fall into the trap telling the consumer more than they need to know to make a buying decision. Or, sometimes worse, they load up the communications with too much stuff. We don’t need to know when you were founded, your hours on Christmas Day, your association memberships or see a picture of your dog. Just give us a compelling reason to begin making a buying decision. You might tell us, for example, what you’re selling and how your product or service might relate to us. Once we know that we’ll find you.

And you can keep the snake.


Two questions to ask yourself about your next presentation.


If you want your next presentation to be a home run, here are the questions you must ask. Then you must be prepared to act on your answers.

Question one: (This is the hard one, because you must work on the answer until you get it down to one sentence.) “What do you want to happen when the presentation is over?” Sometimes the answer is easy. “We want them to give us the business on the spot.” Maybe it’s, “We want open weeping in the audience while they clamor to make sizeable donations than exceed our wildest dreams.” “We want the audience to be aware of the rapid decrease in sales.”

You presentation will be better the more specific you can be. Once you answer question one, then you can begin to target your presentation to meet your goal.

Question two has two related parts: “Who is the audience, and what do they want to hear?” Once again, be specific. If the audience is 200 salespeople who are between the ages of 30 and 50 and are having trouble meeting their quotas, write that down. If they want to hear that there is a new incentive program, or that the sales forecast is for a 20% increase of market share, then lay that out.

The less you know about the audience, the mushier your presentation.

As you ponder question two, remember the lowly lawnmower. Millions of lawnmowers are sold every year, but nobody buys lawnmowers. Instead, people buy short grass. What’s the short grass?

Finally, here is a universal truth that is sadly ignored far too often: the PowerPoint or whatever other nifty technology you use is not your presentation. You are the presentation. Graphic support, or slide support, or whatever you want to call it, is just that: support. I’m taking nothing away from PowerPoint, its sisters, brothers, offsprings and close friends. The proper use of technology, scribing, interactive media, audience participation and other keen techniques can make your presentation one that will literally never be forgotten. (This does not include the audience members who didn’t want to be in there in the first place. Disappearing elephants won’t get them to pay attention.)

“But,” you exclaim, “all I have is my laptop, PowerPoint and a time slot just before the cocktail party. What do I do?”

That’s not an easy question to answer. There are a lot of supposed easy answers you’ll see in posts on “Ten Sure-Fire Steps to a Winning Presentation,” but the reality is effective presentations take a lot of work. If you take shortcuts, it’ll show. Every single time. If you’re speaking to a critically important audience, you might consider getting some help from a professional.

However, if you can’t use a pro, here’s a way to develop a presentation that will do the job.

Honestly and completely answer the two questions above. This, alone, is a giant step forward. Then do this:

Write out word-for-word what you want to tell the audience. Then read that out loud and make corrections.

Take that narrative you have written and outline it. All you want is a numbered list of key points.

Take those points and make one slide for each point. Make the type nice and big, put it on a colored background, and don’t use more than 9 words per slide. If you have relevant photographs, use them, but don’t cover up the type. Charts and graphs can be a problem. If you must use them, make them simple, and, even then, use them sparingly.

Rehearse your presentation over and over until you’re sick of it and your delivery is as natural as telling a teenager they can’t borrow the Porsche for the high school prom.

Keep it under 12 minutes, smile, and you’ll be fine.

(c) 2015 Extend Marketing