Master Your Message Blog

Where to Start a Persuasive Presentation

The most common question I get in seminars is “How do I begin to put together a presentation? Where do I start?”

And I always say “Start at the end.” And that usually gets a big, blank stare.

What I mean is: start with what you want your audience to do.

And to figure that out, think about the moment at the end of your presentation when your audience has all the information you’ve presented … what is it you want them to do … to think … to understand? It needs to be one action or thought and you should be able to describe it in a short sentence.

One short sentence … your objective. And you absolutely, positively need to write it down … for clarity … and just in case. You can always “tweak it” if the information changes along the way.

The question is actually a little more nuanced than my example above. Because audiences won’t do what you want them to do without believing that it’s the right thing to do, that it’s good for them.

So, ask yourself, “What does my audience have to believe in order for them to do what I want them to do?” That’s the most important question.

I’ve put together a video below and an example that explains it all in a little more detail.

As an example, I may want to persuade my boss to purchase a new color printer, rather than the old black and white one we’ve had for eight years. To get my boss to make that decision, I have to get inside her brain. And mostly what she’s concerned with is cost and productivity.

We’ve been having lots of downtime and maintenance and the sales team has been grumbling about potential lost sales, because their presentations aren’t flashy enough.

That leads to my objective: So … “if I can convince my boss that the printer will pay for itself in reduced maintenance costs and help the sales team increase sales by say, fifteen per cent, then she will give me the approval to recommend a short-list of three printers.”

That statement tells me what needs to be part of my presentation. Now, I know I can get a list from maintenance of the number of times they’ve had to fix the printer — and Jennifer, the receptionist, keeps a record of downtime. The sales team will be more than happy to either provide a support letter or accompany me to the presentation to state their case.

This all comes from understanding what the boss’ concerns are and writing an objective to focusses on those concerns. And that tells me what my presentation is about and what I have to include it in. Everything that doesn’t support those points just isn’t important to my case and should be left out.

The one other thing that’s important is to ask for what you know you can get. If I was to ask for approval to purchase, I wouldn’t likely get it outright, so I’m asking for approval to source some potential printers. That will likely mean a short, second presentation, but if I play it right, the objective on that later presentation is to select the printer. It’s somewhat understood that the sale  has been made. I would have to make sure that I stay focussed on the first objective in terms of reinforcing the benefits that this new printer will provide.

Remember, it’s not about what YOU want to achieve. It’s about what YOUR AUDIENCE has to believe.

That’s a big thought.

So … where do you start? Start at the end – visually picture your audience and what you want them to do.

What do you think. Did I make this clear enough?

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