In an earlier post, “Presenting tips: The 4 Rules of Engagement”, I discussed some ways in which you can win your audience’s support: by engaging with their emotions through the use of powerful language. To deliver a truly outstanding presentation, you’ll also need to appeal to their minds. This post will give you some ways to do that.
- Frame your presentation according to the receptivity of your audience
No two audiences are the same. Some will be unaware of the key points in your presentation; some will be aware of your key points but opposed to your proposal; others may be supportive of your position. Here are some tried-and-tested ways to help you structure your presentation effectively:
For uninterested audiences – Begin by describing an urgent and important problem that needs to be solved. Then explain why this problem must be rectified and state the undesirable consequences of not solving it. Once you’ve done this, present your compelling solution to the issue.
For audiences who are opposed - The best strategy to employ in this situation is to argue ‘for and against’ – i.e. argue both sides. This will give you valuable credibility in the eyes of your audience. Once you’ve done this, you can refute the opposing arguments by challenging the evidence and/or points.
For audiences who are supportive - If you are fortunate enough to have a supportive audience, the best approach is to strengthen their support. You can do this in several ways: tell a relevant story, use statistics or persuasive case studies.
For audiences that are for and against (‘mixed audiences’) - In this situation, first identify the root cause of the problem you are seeking to address. Then describe the undesirable consequences and explain how and why your plan will rectify these.
- Provide the proofs that will back up your proposal
Thinking minds will expect you to provide solid evidence that your proposal deserves their attention. Here are a few examples of evidence you should aim to provide:
- Statistics that will emphasise risks or benefits
- Graphic evidence – for example, videos, infographics, charts
- Tangible evidence – for example, product samples
- Mention the features of your proposal, but highlight the key benefits and the evidence
A common mistake made in presentations is to emphasise the features of a product or service, rather than the benefits. Listing features will convince no-one. But what’s the difference? Benefits are the advantages that a product or service gives a customer. For example, the sport’s suspension of a car is a feature. The benefit of this is that you can have a more exhilarating drive. The evidence is that highly respected, independent bodies have verified the ease of which the car can go round corners. Be very clear, both in your own mind and in your presentation, what are benefits, what are features and what constitutes evidence for your proposal. Once you’re clear, you can then communicate the benefits of your proposal and why your audience should believe you.
Once you have engaged with your audience on an emotional level, the next step is to ‘win the battle’ for their minds. The key to doing this, as discussed above, is to have the right structure for your presentation and complete clarity about the features, benefits and evidence for your proposal. It’s also important to have a strong grasp of the objections that may be held by your audience so you can refute any opposing arguments in a credible manner.
Main article image: Presentation skills via FESBC