Making Information Flow


In Lesson 30 of this online course, we first introduce you to the concept of "flow." To be effective, a Website must "flow." In this lesson, you will learn to create "flow" through effective organization and presentation of information on your Website. The concepts involved are: knowing your audience, organizing your information, using repetition, using concrete examples, finding agreement and overcoming resistance, using hyperlinks to adjust your presentation, tying your information together, and creating opportunity for continuing contact.

Have you ever become frustrated while trying to explain something to someone? Sometimes, when people are being hard-headed, it feels like you are trying to cram a square peg into a round hole.

The psychology of how people learn supports this analogy. The human mind cannot accept new information unless that information "fits" with pre-existing attitudes and perspectives. A person is not receptive to new information unless it smoothly integrates with the information already assimilated in that person's mind. While healthy people do not lose the ability to learn as they grow older, it sometimes seems so; because their heads are already crowded with stuff interfering with new information.

Thus, you cannot influence a mind unless you know something of what is already in that mind. In short, you have to know your audience and you have to speak to your audience in the context of their existing attitudes, perspectives, and knowledge. If you are promoting with square pegs and your audience has round holes in their minds, you either have to round off your pegs or square off the holes in your listeners' minds—or a little of both.

What if I told you that water did not freeze at zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit)? You would be resistant to that information. That information would not fit with the information already firmly implanted in your mind. You have known since you were very small that water does indeed freeze at zero Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit)! You have seen it with your own eyes time and time again. You would reject my assertion. You would also likely reject anything else I had to say thereafter. I would have lost credibility by making an assertion that you could not accept.

But, what if I explained that I was referring to absolutely pure water? Pure H2O, Something that rarely, if ever, exists in nature but can be created in the laboratory. If I were to explain that water must have impurities in order to form crystals...and that crystals were necessary for freezing to occur, then I might have a chance of convincing you. Absolutely pure water, water with no impurities at all, has nothing to which the crystals can attach. Thus, it does not freeze at the normal freezing point. With this explanation, I would be rounding off the pegs of my information somewhat and squaring off the holes in your mind somewhat. You would be more likely to accept my assertion. But, I would still have an uphill battle. You would still be somewhat skeptical. To fully convince you would require calling upon several other facts with which you were already familiar and show you how they all fit with the assertion I was making.

To have an effective presentation, you must build upon information already in the minds of your audience. Your presentation must fit with their existing attitudes, perspectives, and knowledge. You cannot cram square pegs into round holes. Thus, as we have pointed out in earlier lessons in this course, it is helpful to design your presentations for narrow audiences and to target your promotions for each presentation to that narrow demographic group for which the presentation is designed.

If you were designing a Website for a group of physicists, you would need very little space to support the assertion that pure water does not freeze at zero Celsuis. If your Website is designed for a group of fishermen, much more space and effort would be needed.

In order to influence your audience, you must also present your information in an organized fashion.

Any presentation—be it a book, a speech, a television show, a Website, or whatever—should have a beginning (the introduction), a middle (the body), and an end (the summary).

Any type of presentation, including a Website, should begin with an introduction. The introduction has two main purposes:

First, the introduction should capture attention. With all the noise in today's world, people have learned to tune most of it out. You have to capture your audience's attention at the start, or you will just be part of the noise they tune out. Second, the introduction should prepare your viewers' minds for things to come. You can use words to draw a sketch in your audience's minds of the entire picture painted by the presentation. People's minds have to be warmed up to things. You can't just hit them cold. You have to tell them about what you are going to be telling them...before you actually tell them what you have to say.

At the end of your presentation, you should have a summary. The summary reminds your audience, in a more concise form, of what you just told them. It ties everything together. The mind has to work with information before it is absorbed. Information has to be churned around in the mind much like food has to be churned around in the stomach. By providing another overview of the information at the end of your presentation, you are starting the process that will hopefully continue in your listeners' minds to digest and absorb the informationyou have presented.

The body of your presentation, the part between the introduction and the summary, is the meat of your presentation. Between your introduction and your summary, you say in detail what you have to say. Every fact and detail that is important to your presentation should be included in the body.

Do not include anything in the introduction that is not covered in the body. Likewise, do not introduce anything new in the summary. That is, everything promised in the introduction or summarized in the summary should be covered in detail in the body of your presentation.

Many presentations, from infomercials to Supreme Court opinions, use the technique of repetition. If you have watched an infomercial lately, you will have noticed that, about five or 10 minutes into the show, they start over again with a new introduction, body, and summary. A few minutes later, they start over yet again. This is especially useful if your information is complicated. With each pass through, you can emphasize and explain a different element.

When you use this approach, you should have a main or master introduction at the very beginning and a main or master summary at the very end, with intermediate introductions and summaries in each of your repetitions.

Repetition is effective when you are calling your audience to action. As stated above, the mind must digest information before it can act on that information. When you want people to take action immediately, you must assist in the digestion process by repeating your information, rather than leaving it to your audience to do after the presentation is over.

One common form of repetition is repetition by example. Consider the following outline for a sales presentation for weight loss supplements:

Main Introduction:
Everyone wants to be thin and healthy. Our supplements make you thin and healthy. You can afford our supplements. Our supplements are more economical than the alternatives considering the benefits you derive from them. You should buy our supplements now.
Main Body:
Our supplements work because (provide details). You can afford our supplements (provide "costs less than..." price info). Our supplements are more economical than the alternatives because (provide details). You will be glad you bought our supplements because (provide details of benefits).

Jack wanted to be thin and healthy. Our supplements made Jack thin and healthy. Jack could afford our supplements. Our supplements were more economical than other alternatives available to Jack. Jack bought our supplements and he is glad that he did.

Jill wanted to be thin and healthy. Our supplements made Jill thin and healthy. Jill could afford our supplements. Our supplements were more economical than other alternatives available to Jill. Jill bought our supplements and she is glad that she did.

More specific price info.

More detailed benefits info.
Main Summary:
Everyone, including Jack and Jill and you, wants to be thin and healthy. Our supplements work because (brief summary of details). Jack and Jill could afford our supplements and you can afford our supplements. Our supplements were more economical than other alternatives available to Jack and Jill and they are more economical than other alternatives available to you. Jack and Jill are glad they bought our supplements and you will be glad you bought our supplements. You should buy them right now.
Notice that repetition is provided by using examples. You can go over all the points in discussing Jack. You can go over all the points again while discussing Jill. Repetition by example has the added benefit of making the information concrete rather than abstract. Concrete information has a greater impact and is easier to remember than abstract information. The average person is more likely to remember Jack and Jill than they are to remember the scientific explanation of how the supplements work.

As you present information to your audience, any given member of your audience will agree with some points and disagree with, or be resistant to, other points. In order to win over your audience, you must have more agreement than disagreement overall. You must start from points of agreement. You must build on further points of agreement. Then, you must use points of agreement to overcome the objections and resistance that arise along the way.

Envision a salesperson sitting down with a potential customer. The salesperson will certainly find a point of agreement to start the conversation. Imagine a salesperson that sits down with a potential customer and brags on the good weather of late. If the potential customer responds that he hates this weather because it aggravates his sinuses, any salesperson worth his or her salt will leave skid marks reversing themselves on that point.

Notwithstanding their original observation, they will readily agree with the potential customer that the weather of late is a bad thing. Why? Because the potential customer's opinion of the weather is not important to closing the sale. The salesperson will not "waste" a point of disagreement on an issue that does not matter to the sale. Sales are closed by agreement, not by disagreement.

When a potential customer has disagreement on an issue that is important to the sale, however, the salesperson will work to overcome that resistance. Resistance is overcome by finding other information supporting the salesperson's position with which the potential customer agrees.

For example, say the salesperson is trying to sell enzyme supplements. The salesperson and the potential customer both agree that there are benefits from using the supplements. The potential customer objects to the price, however, because the same volume of the same ingredients is available at the local discount market for half the cost. The salesperson will then have to convince the potential customer that, all things considered, it is still economical to buy from him or her. Alternatively, the salesperson will have to convince the potential customer that the product at the local discount market is somehow inferior. The objection must be overcome in order to close the sale.

Different people have different objections and different points of resistance. In a one-to-one sales meeting, like our example above, the salesperson learns the objections as they occur. In a media presentation to a mass audience, however, the salesperson can only guess what the objections may be. Anticipating the objections and points of resistance most likely to arise in a particular audience is crucial to preparing an effective presentation for that audience.

With the advent of the World Wide Web, hyperlinks created a new tool in communication. With hyperlinks, you can allow any visitor to your Web presentation to move directly to other information simply by clicking a word or picture.

You are missing the full potential of hyperlinks if you think of them simply as navigation tools to move your visitors through a set presentation. Hyperlinks can allow you to change the flow of your presentation based upon particular characteristics of each viewer. That is, hyperlinks allow you to customize your presentation based upon the attitudes, perspectives, existing knowledge, and points of resistance of individual members of your audience.

Going back to my water-not-freezing-at-zero-degrees example, on a Website I could say; "If you still don't believe this, click here." I could make the word "here" a hyperlink to a more detail explanation of my premise. Then, after overcoming that resistance, I could lead my skeptical audience back into the main presentation by links from that auxiliary page.

Sometimes, you will want to lead the person into an entirely different presentation that will be more effective given what you have learned about them from their choice of hyperlinks, rather than leading them back into the main presentation.

Hyperlinks allow you to incorporate elements of adjustment (that have historically been available only in one-on-one presentations) to a presentation to a large audience. If you have 10 pages and each page has 10 hyperlinks, you can effectively create 100 different presentations in a single Website! It takes a lot of work, but it creates a very powerful vehicle for presenting your information.

In their novels fiction writers use a technique known as "foreshadowing" to provide subtle hints of what will happen later in the story. This technique helps the story to "flow" in the readers mind. When the foreshadowed event occurs in the story, the reader says, "AHA! I somehow knew that might happen." The readers usually do not consciously recognize the subtle hints when they are given. The subtle hints work in the subconscious mind to make the reader feel as though she had anticipated the event.

Stand-up comedians use a technique referred to as the "call-back" in closing their routines. A comedian may start his routine telling jokes about his wife not supporting his ventures. Then, his jokes may move on to other things such as doctors, lawyers, and politicians. At the end, he will likely conclude his routine with a joke about how some politician's wife, like his wife, does not support her husband either. The last joke alludes back to an earlier joke at the beginning of the routine. The last joke turns on the same issue as the first joke. This ties the routine together in the audience's mind, giving the routine a sense of completeness.

There are other similar techniques used by various writers, performers, and presenters to tie up their presentation. It is an art rather than a science. No one can tell you exactly how it should be done in your presentation. Leave subtle hints early in your presentation for things that will come later. Toward the end of your presentation, make subtle allusions back to the beginning.

Even the most effective of presentations will not make every possible sale on the first pass through, however.

As we have previously cited in this course, there is research to suggest that it takes several encounters (generally seven to 11) before action will be taken by your potential customer.

Because absorption of information is a process that continues in your viewer's minds after they have viewed your presentation, it is important to stay in contact with them. The influence of your presentation will not have its full effect until sometime later. If you have a newsletter that reinforces the presentation of your Website, you will be able to continue the repetition that is necessary to inspire action on the part of your viewers, giving them time to complete the mental digestion process.

Thus, it is crucial to have a newsletter signup option on your Webpage. This way, you can continue the "flow" of information, even after the viewer has left your Website.

In Lesson 3 of this online course, we first introduced you to the concept of "flow." To be effective, a Website must "flow." When a state of "flow" is created in the viewer's mind, they are much more likely to take action on your page (such as buying something or joining your newsletter or program). You create flow on your Website through organization of your information. You should organize your information in light of what you anticipate regarding the existing attitudes, perspectives, and knowledge of your audience. You should use repetition to reinforce your message. Repetition by example is a way to achieve repetition while making your information concrete rather than abstract. Your flow of information should build upon points of agreement and overcome points of resistance. You can use hyperlinks to individualize the flow of your presentation, depending upon the choices made by your visitors. You should use techniques similar to foreshadowing and call-backs to tie your information together. You should provide a newsletter signup form to make a continued flow of information possible. Following these principles will help to tightened up your presentation, allowing you to get those square pegs through the round holes in your audience's minds.

Stay tuned to upcoming lessons in the Internet Income Course for detailed discussions of timely and important topics in Internet Marketing.

Author Bio
Article by George Little.
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