The CAPA Model and Effective Presentations
Inc. magazine interviewed me last week as part of an article about improving presentation skills. As a part of my preparation for the meeting, I put together a quick outline to help my interviewer better understand the content I wanted to review. As a loyal reader of my blog, I thought/think that you deserve to benefit from this just as much as the Inc. readers. Likewise, it is unrealistic to think that they will place all of this information in the article. As such, the Inc. readers that have found their way over can benefit from garnering the complete resource. So, I am giving you access to the structure of one of my most coveted presentation models, The CAPA model. CAPA stands for credibility, attention, and positive affect. These are the three most important end goals that one should have in mind while creating and executing a presentation.
I loathe over simplicity, so in giving you the structure alone, please don’t run away from this thinking that you have a silver bullet in hand. This is however an amazingly functional structural guideline, and the “meat” will need to be filled in by yourself (or my if I’m working with you) regarding the specifics of your presentation. Filling in the meat is really where I earn the considerable sums of money I’m paid. With that being said, I am happy to lend the structural components and some vital information regarding how best to “fill them in.” So without further adieu, let’s begin the three part series by talking about credibility and a few of the many attributes that comprise it.
Credibility, as defined by Wikipedia, refers to the objective and subjective components of the believability of a source or message. Now there are a number of other definitions on the net, but in my opinion this is works very well for our purposes here. This is because credibility really is a combination of objective and subjective information. This fact creates a much more complex scenario when attempting to achieve credibility. And why are we trying to achieve credibility in the first place? Well in short, this is one of the most important criteria for achieving behavioral compliance from the person/s you are attempting to persuade. Without digging too deeply, there has been considerable research performed on not only the importance of maintaining credibility, but also the factors/attributes that help to comprise it. So feel free to do your own research into the topic, for the time being though suffice it to say that it is highly important.
Some of the objective attributes that help to create credibility in a speaker are among the obvious. They range from academic degrees and/or titles to specific status symbols such as awards or memberships to illustrative accomplishments such as writing your own book, founding a successful company, etc. Now it should go without saying that if you possess any of these accolades, positioning them into the presentation in some gratuitous way will greatly increase your perceived credibility. But aside from these objective attributes, credibility is determined by some other specific subjective attributes. So let’s take a look at a few of these…
- First, your messages and the information you are conveying should not be one-sided. In other words, they shouldn’t overtly appear as though you want to change the attendee’s attitudes. Generally, in taking a very weighted approach toward a particular side, the natural reaction of your audience will be to oppose you. The reason’s being that at a subconscious level, a one-sided approach is not only a long swing on the pendulum from the center of status quo but also an implication of the need for decision on their part. This can serve to up-regulate personal defenses which will result in their mind filtering information in a way that opposes this potential attack on “freedom” by forcing a decision. To buffer this one-sided attack, simply address both sides of the proverbial coin and provide more evidence for the side you are endorsing.
- Second, the speed of your speech can have a profound impact on your perceived credibility. You see, the speed of information recall and presentation is important in that it is indicative of intelligence in the mind of the perceiver. Does it factually indicate intelligence? No, it doesn’t… There are plenty of slow talking professors who would make your head spin. With that being said, the average human will lend more credibility to someone who speaks just a bit faster than the average individual. So the bottom line is that faster and more succinct speakers are more credible. You can aid this ability considerably by establishing fluency with the material and the priming of that information before your meeting.
- Fluency with information – This is simple, study the information in detail ahead of time and be certain you understand it thoroughly. Before your actual presentation, give it to someone who doesn’t know the information at all and have them ask questions to expose your “blind sides.” By practicing and filling in your blind spots, you will maintain a strong grasp on the material.
- Priming – Although there are a few different processes and components involved in memory recall, a specific one that you can control is known as activation potential. This refers to the threshold of “energy” that needs to be met in order for the memory to enter into consciousness. As you can imagine, the lower the threshold, the easier the memory is to recall. The easier the memory is to recall, the quicker it will be made declarative to you so that you can speak about it. One of the processes that increases activation potential is known as priming, which is the activation of the memory in the recent past. This will occur (ideally) as close to the point of necessity as possible. A method to help prime yourself is known as the question dump. In this exercise, you write down as many questions as you can possibly concoct that pertain to your presentation. This will be a brainstorm of sorts, but will be focused onto the presentation rather than letting the brain just run wild. So just let your brain go with it and keep writing… By performing this in close temporal proximity to the meeting, you will very effectively prime the material in your brain.
Again, keep in mind that credibility is the result of the culmination of a number of different attributes, skills and information. The above points are a strong point of reference from which to begin creating your own credibility. In my next post I move onto the next portion of the CAPA model, which is attention. We will talk about what attention is and what you can do to maintain it…
Please feel free to explore the rest of my blog The Communication Expert, or if I am online, please feel free to connect with me via Skype.
David J. Parnell | The Communication Expert