PERA: a tool to communicate an idea

By: Astrolab

Surely you have found yourself in this situation: you have an important presentation and don’t know which is the best way to structure all the information you have on your hands.

What do I say first? Where do I introduce this statistic? When should I add the main idea? In what moment do I share the example I prepared?

PERA is a tool that can help you sort out a big part of your problem. PERA is an acronym that will allow you to better arrange the all the information categories, and can helo you communicate ONE main idea in a brief and concrete way, with the aim of getting others to know or do something new or different.

¿How to build a PERA?

1. Define your Point

This step may be hard, because sometimes we want to share several ideas at the same time. The problem with this is that if you don’t have clarity about those different ideas, you are at risk of confusing your audience, or it may take you more time than needed to make them understand your message.

The solution is simple: identify clearly what is it that you want to make your audience know, understand, believe or do, and think of a single and concise idea that can communicate it.

for example, if you wanted to convince the managers at your organization of choosing a very emotional marketing campaign to promote your new project, your Point might be something like:

Human beings make decisions based in emotions.

This is the P in PERA: your Point

Make sure your Point is a value judgement and is concrete. In the workbook we use at our Inspira: Business Storytelling workshop, we share this recommendations:

  • Avoid making it too abstract. “Customer service” is very vague. It would be better to say: “Customer service can improve in our call center”.

  • Avoid making it too long.Your Point should be brief. Build it as if it were a Tweet (Under 140 characters). Never use more than two sentences.

2. The next step is finding an example or story that can help you build up your Point

Sticking with the we stated Point (the one about human beings making decisions based on emotions), you could tell a story referencing Daniel Goleman in his book Working with Emotional Intelligence about a lawyer who lost the ability make decisions when he had accidentally removed under surgery the conduct that connects the amygdala and the frontal cerebral lobe, which is the place in the brain where emotional memory is stores. This would be your E, your Example.

These are some common mistakes to avoid when picking an example or story:

  • Telling very expense stories. Make sure tour Example or story lasts less than 2 minutes or, if you are going to write it, has less than 300 words.

  • Picking stories that are not directly related or don’t help reinforce your Point.

  • Telling boring or cold stories, To avoid this you can tell the story to a friend or colleague, and ask for feedback about what he liked or didn’t like from your story.

3. Now is time to think about information you want to share so you can capture the attention of the more analytical and objective members of your audience.

This is where you can add data, numbers, and any rational argument. In the case about the lawyer from Daniel Goleman’s book, you could explain a bit about neuroscience. This is the R, the Reasons.

Common mistakes to avoid while picking your Reasons:

  • Waste the opportunity to share relevant quantitative information.

  • Dedicate too much time to this part of your message, probably making your presentation a bit boring.

4. The last part of your PERA is closing with the call to Action you want to make to your audience, that can sometimes be substituted with something you learned or a main takeaway.

In the case we’ve been reviewing through this article (human beings making decisions based on emotions), you could close with a lesson learned:

“Discovering this has made me a lot more conscious about the importance of our leaders knowing about psychology and sociology”

But you could also ask for a specific action, a change on a behavior:

“This is why I believe we should design more emotional marketing campaigns and appeal to the emotional part of our audience”

PERA is flexible. I have even seen hoy leaders close their PERA sharing something they learned WHILE making a call to action.

What to avoid when choosing your call to Action or key takeaway:

  • Being confusing or too abstract. Your closing statement should be as clear and concise as possible.

  • Forgetting to connect your closing statement with your Point or Example.

When to use PERA?

As we said, PERA es a tool that allows you to share ONE idea in a brief, clear, concise and emotional way, so you can get people to learn, believe or do something new or different.

You can use it in a meeting, presentation or reunion- scheduled or improvised- where you need to be very effective in your communication skills. If you want to communicate several ideas, you can build several PERAs, one for each, and share them consecutively.

The challenge is finding and using the correct information for each of the categories, (Point, Example, Reason, Action).

PERA works particularly for oral messages (face-to-face, calls, voice messages), but can also be used in emails or documents.

Except for the Point that could be more related to the Action, Mark Bezos makes a PERA in a few minutes: This one is one of my favorite PERAs. Can you identify each of the elements?

20 de March de 2017


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