The show is part of the substance

When you believe in better, it’s your obligation to speak with the clarity that’s required for your audience to resonate with your message.

Change requires being heard. It’s a huge misunderstanding – and a source of big frustration – for quite a lot of difference makers who make better things and then stop at making them. The resonance that their competition gets for their arguably inferior products by putting on a show feels like an unfair advantage to them. You’ll often hear them complain that “show” seems to be more important than “substance” to their audience.

It’s not, of course. Because the show is part of the substance.

Your audience doesn’t care for the things they don’t see or understand and it doesn’t have to. It’s not their obligation to see why your thing matters. It’s yours. Resonance is actually required to get results.

The good news is this: If your product really does change things for the better, then you’re in a much better position to make your message resonate. Because what resonates most is relevance. So, the actual unfair advantage is to make better things. Because better things create relevance. Then, turn relevance into resonance!

Not good with words? Let AI take over!

If you still believe that it matters more how you say things than what you say then there might be great news for you. Liam Porr managed to get the AI algorithm GPT-3 to write a blog article that made it to the top ranked post on the website Hacker News.

The topic? Typical self-help stuff: “Feeling unproductive? Maybe you should stop overthinking.

The article can be summarized in one sentence: “Well, if you tend to overthink things then stop overthinking and start creative thinking.”

Porr about what he needed to do: “It’s quite good at making pretty language, and it’s not very good at being logical and rational.” So he picked a popular blog category that doesn’t require rigorous logic: productivity and self-help.

And it is in fact a light read with a conversational tone. The scary part is how this article indeed reads like a lot of the conversion driven articles that put all their effort into getting you to click on the headline and that flood the social networks.

Yet, make no mistake. Computers are good at logic in general. So, this will likely be taken care of sooner or later. What’s still missing in computers is a sense of purpose. The why. The making sense of things part.

What’s lacking in both instances, human written and machine generated versions, is substance.

So, actually, GPT-3 is bad news if saying things nicely is your main focus as a communicator. Computers will probably soon become even better than humans in figuring out how to say things in a way that triggers just the right actions.

If we don’t want to end up in a society that’s filled with nice sounding, but ultimately meaningless content we need to raise the bars. Strive for purpose and for meaning – especially for meaningful content. This includes teaching our audiences so they not only cheer for the beautiful stuff but are also enabled to applaud the meaningful stuff.

What you say vs. how you say it

I keep reading this but it’s still as wrong as the first time:

“It doesn’t matter what you say but how you say it!”

What this is probably meant to say is that how you say things has a strong influence on whether what you say actually makes an impact. And because of that it might happen that inferior ideas beat superior ones simply because they were communicated better.

Yet, if you care then you’ll always start with what you say. It’s why you show up in the first place. It’s what makes the difference. It’s what separates the bullshitters and the hot air producers from those who actually want to change things for the better.

For them, things might not always appear to be fair. Sometimes, it feels that these slick and sneaky marketers are just naturally talented to sell things. But, if you look closely, it’s often not that they are actually more charismatic or more eloquent. It’s just that they understand better what resonates with their audiences.

When you care enough for your cause, it’s part of the game to do the hard work of empathy so that you understand what resonates with your audience, too. And if you do, magic happens. Because when you say the things that you believe in in a way that deeply resonates with your audience, change happens and trust is built.

The loooooooong pause

Many people tend to believe that tension is created by holding back information and having people wait for the reveal. Casting shows love to do that (“The winner is … looooong paaaauuuuuse … the winner is … even looooooooooonnnggger paaaaaaaauuuuuuuuse …”).

Often, though, a much more satisfying experience of tension is created by the opposite approach. By providing information leaves your audience in awe and begging you to tell them more. When you manage to create tension precisely by the things you say then it’s not the performance but the information itself that creates the tension.

If that’s the case you’ll know that you really hit a nerve. Also, it’s the beginning of a conversation rather than the end. Instead of being satisfied by the piece of information they receive, audiences become curious by it. Instead of feeling relieved by the information, tension is built up by the information.

What is a piece of information that you could give your audience that makes them want to know more?

Cute and clever is a trap

Cute and clever is a trap that businesses easily fall into. It’s deceptive because it seems that this is what the others are doing as well. When you see these slick presentations that win the deal, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that it’s the slickness that did the job.

Yet, more often than not that’s not the case. It’s clarity that wins in most cases. With clarity comes slickness. Not the other way around.

You can have beautiful words, gorgeous slides, and catchy titles. Yet, when clarity is missing, your audience will not buy into your story.

It’s like with special effects in a movie. A movie with great special effects might be fun to watch, but a movie with a great story beats the special effects every time. Of course, a great story that’s implemented brilliantly beats both.

For presentations, it’s the same. Clarity beats slickness. Clarity plus slickness beats both. The good news is that once you have clarity, it’s so much easier to find the slickness that you were looking for.

A diamond needs to be polished, not decorated

Purity is what makes diamonds beautiful.

You polish it and shape it to take it’s purest form.

What you specifically don’t do with diamonds is to decorate it with fluff and stuff.

Why then do you decorate the diamond that is your product with all sorts of gimmicks and fluff and stuff when speaking about it?

When polished what is it that makes your product shine by itself?


A wow effect is relatively easy to achieve – if only because you can always throw money at the problem of making a show more breathtaking, more thrilling.

The thing is, though: a wow effect is rarely the point. When the show is over, when the wow moment is consumed, then what sticks? And for how long?

The aha effect is different. It’s what makes people care. It’s what makes people resonate with your message. It’s what makes people get what you have to say. The aha effect makes them see your point in a way they cannot unsee.

The thing is, though: an aha effect is something that money can’t buy. It requires effort. The effort of meticulously thinking it through and sweating the details. Of doing the hard work of empathy. Of walking in their shoes so you can speak their language. With clarity.

A wow effect can be a terrific tool to support an aha effect. To grab the attention that’s required to deliver an aha. But wow is never a means to an end. Wow is always a servant to aha.

Sie präsentieren für die anderen

Eine Präsentation halten Sie nicht für sich, denn Sie wissen ja schon alles. Sie halten sie für die Zuhörer und hoffen, dass die Ihnen etwas abkaufen: Visionen, Produkte, Wissen, Projekte, Kompetenz, …

Ob Ihnen das gelingt, hängt nicht davon ab, wie viel Aufwand Sie für die Präsentation treiben – mehr Details, schickere Folien, eine größere Show – sondern ob es der richtige Aufwand ist. Wenn etwas für Ihr Publikum irrelevant ist, wird es nicht dadurch relevanter, dass Sie es hübscher, lauter oder länger erklären.

Relevanz entsteht, wenn die Zuhörer Ihre Idee verstehen und erkennen, wie sie ihr Problem löst. Denn Sie haben auf den Punkt gebracht, was den Menschen wichtig ist, was sie aber selbst nie so hätten formulieren können.

Eine gute Präsentation beginnt nicht beim „Was?“, erst recht nicht beim „Wie?“. Eine gute Präsentation beginnt beim „Für wen?“.

Ist Content überbewertet?

Nein. Ist er nie.

Am Ende ist immer entscheidend, was Sie zu sagen haben.

Kann sein, dass die Show Ihre Kunden zum Kaufen bringt. Aber Vertrauen entsteht durch Aha, nicht durch Wow.

Wow wirkt kurzfristig, Aha langfristig. Das, was Sie zu sagen haben, ist die Basis, auf der langfristiges Vertrauen entsteht.

In diesem Sinn kann man Content gar nicht überbewerten.

[Allerdings: wenn Content die Show meint, wie so oft im Social Media Marketing („Wir müssen mehr Content produzieren“), dann dürfen sämtliche Alarmglocken angehen.]

Ist das nicht normal?

Das ist doch ein ganz normaler Typ. Genau – und deswegen faszinierend.

Viele Comedians sind gar nicht lustig. Ricky Gervais ist es. Seit er die britische Vorlage zu Stromberg erfand und die Hauptrolle darin spielte, zählt er zu den beliebtesten englisch-sprachigen Comedians. Was macht er anders?

Being honest is what counts. Trying to make the ordinary extra-ordinary is so much better than starting with the extra-ordinary. Because it doesn’t really connect.


If something is real for one person, it touches their life. I think as a creator and a director it’s your job to make an audience as excited and fascinated about a subject as you are. And real life does that.

Als Vortragender müssen Sie nicht immer lustig sein, aber es ist Ihr Job, Ihr Publikum so von Ihrem Thema zu begeistern und zu faszinieren wie Sie es selbst sind. Das bedeutet insbesondere:

  1. Sind Sie selbst nicht von Ihrer Idee fasziniert, können Sie von Ihrem Publikum keine Faszination erwarten.
  2. Geschichten aus dem Leben faszinieren Menschen.
  3. Menschen faszinieren Menschen.
  4. Das normale Leben ist viel faszinierender als Sie denken.
  5. Wer im normalen Leben nichts faszinierendes findet, schaut nicht genau genug hin.
  6. Ideen, die Menschen faszinieren, haben etwas mit ihrem Leben zu tun.
  7. Wer Wow-Effekte sucht, der hat entweder nicht genau genug hingesehen oder eine Idee, die nichts mit dem Leben der Menschen im Publikum zu tun hat.
  8. Wenn Menschen erkennen, was eine Idee mit ihrem Leben zu tun hat, haben sie einen Aha-Effekt.
  9. Aha-Effekte sind stärker als Wow-Effekte.
  10. Das normale Leben erzeugt Aha-Effekte.

[Foto: Redfishingboat/]

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Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz