If you have difficulty with putting together a persuasive presentation–of any type–quickly, then here’s a really simple structure you can use to get you started. When I say “presentation,” I’m including email, phone calls, conversations, letters (does anyone write these any more?)–virtually any form of communication in which you want to get your point across or that you want to result in an action.
It goes like this:
Simple really. Here it is with a little more detail (yes, this is the “Specifics” section of this email):
1. Situation. There’s a key rule for how to be most effective in any kind of learning situation: Start with what your audience knows–and then build new information on top. It’s the same thing with being persuasive. If you want to gain rapport with your audience quickly, start talking about the current situation from your audience’s perspective. If you show them that you understand what they’re up against, that you have empathy, and that you have the experience to help them solve the dilemma they’re facing, you’ll create an instant bond.
2. Solution. Follow with the solution. Most decision-makers (certainly in the business environment) don’t have time to listen to you tell long stories or fill in the background, particularly when it’s not important to them making a decision. If your solution is within their budget, seems logical, and is easily implemented, you might get a decision right on the spot. No need for anything more (this is more likely to happen in emails and conversations than presentations).
The mistake is that we tend to go into the details or tell a long story first before getting to the solution. That approach only frustrates decision-makers, who will sit there with a frown on their faces as they try to figure out where you’re going (and what you’re going to ask for. In a longer persuasive presentation, if you have an action you require, set up the expectation as you talk about the solution. Don’t leave it until the very end.
3. Specifics. Here’s where you get to fill in the background. Make sure you have well-thought-out points presented in the order of importance (to your audience). Include just the information that supports your solution. Leave out anything else–it distracts and you lose impact. You might use facts, charts, graphs, stories (which are extremely powerful, depending on the situation and audience), and other supporting information.
4. Summary. Remember here to reiterate the problem and solution and then summarize in a short phrase any key points that are the most persuasive (particularly any that you know your audience bought into along the way).
Don’t forget to “ask for the order” at the very end–which might be the 5th ‘S’: Sell!
For a full grounding in developing persuasive presentations to sell your ideas, trounce the competition, or change perception, check out my online video-based workshop, Persuasive Presentations 2.0.