Presenting to Persuade
by Rick Brenner
Successful, persuasive presentations involve a whole lot more than PowerPoint skills. What does it take to present persuasively, with power?
The video ended, Ginny clicked the window closed, and swiveled her chair to face Sid and Mort. Sid was staring at the screen, in awe of what he'd just seen — a master at work. Mort was gazing out the window, in thought.
"Now that presentation worked," Ginny said, "and it wasn't much different from ours."
Sid was puzzled. "Let's watch it again," he said. "I can't figure this out."
Mort returned from wherever he'd been. "I remember a presentation training from awhile back," he said. "This guy we just watched was following the same pattern they taught us. You remember, Ginny, you were there, I think."
"Right…a four-step framework, wasn't it?"
Between the two of them, Mort and Ginny reconstructed the four-step framework for presenting to persuade. Here it is:
- Start with their pain
- Begin by connecting the audience with the parts of their pain that you can address. This motivates them. It gives you credibility, because it proves that you've been there, too.
- For example, if you're talking to a group about designing presentations, you could remind them how hard it is to achieve connection and credibility, especially when the audience doesn't really know you. You're showing them that you share their pain, and you're reminding them of the problem, too.
Too much emphasis
on features per se
is a common mistake
- Feature your features
- Once you've identified their pain, talk about the features of your solution, describing how those features address their pain. For extra punch, show how other solutions that lack those features might not address the pain as effectively. In other words, show how the features of your solution are both necessary and sufficient.
- Feature your features, but take care to connect each one to the pain. Too much emphasis on features per se is such a common mistake that it has a name: feature-mongering.
- Brag about benefits
- Bragging can be hard for some of us, but people do tend to discount whatever presenters say. If you don't emphasize strengths (pre-discount) then after the discount, most of the audience will have an inaccurate picture of the value of the solution.
- The benefits of the solution are direct benefits from the audience's point of view — not yours. Lower maintenance cost for future versions is not a direct benefit, but faster introduction of new capability and faster repair of design problems are direct benefits.
- To find the underlying benefit of any feature, repeatedly ask yourself "So What?" When the answer to this series of questions stops changing, that answer is the end-user benefit. See "Deliver the Headline First," Point Lookout for May 3, 2006, for more.
- Provide proof
- Finally, give some proof that the benefits are attainable with your solution. Proof can be a demonstration, a survey, a prototype, measurements, customer endorsements, endorsements of authorities, whatever you think will work.
You'll attend many presentations over the next few months. Notice which ones have real impact, and notice which ones follow this framework. Does it work? Top Next Issue
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See also Effective Communication at Work and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.
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