Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 6, Issue 26;   June 28, 2006: Presenting to Persuade

Presenting to Persuade

by

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.

Presenting to persuade"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.
Feature your features
Too much emphasis
on features per se
is a common mistake
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? Go to top Top  Next issue: Are You a Fender?  Next Issue

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Related articles

More articles on Effective Communication at Work:

What's in it for him?Beyond WIIFM
Probably the most widely used tactic of persuasion, "What's In It For Me," or WIIFM, can be toxic to an organization. There's a much healthier approach that provides a competitive advantage to organizations that use it.
Circular reasoningBegging the Question
Begging the question is a common, usually undetected, rhetorical fallacy. It leads to unsupported conclusions and painful places we just can't live with. What can we do when it happens?
US President John Kennedy set a goal of a trip to the moonAchieving Goals: Inspiring Passion and Action
Achieving your goals requires both passion and action. Knowing when to emphasize passion and when to emphasize action are the keys to managing yourself, or others, toward achievement.
A foxhunt in VirginiaExasperation Generators: Opaque Metaphors
Most people don't mind going to meetings. They don't even mind coming back from them. It's being in meetings that can be so exasperating. What can we do about this?
Prof. Jack Brehm, who developed the theory of psychological reactanceCognitive Biases and Influence: Part II
Most advice about influencing others offers intentional tactics. Yet, the techniques we actually use are often unintentional, and we're therefore unaware of them. Among these are tactics exploiting cognitive biases.

See also Effective Communication at Work and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Balancing talk time and the value of the contributionComing March 29: Virtual Blowhards
Controlling meeting blowhards is difficult enough in face-to-face meetings, but virtual meetings present next-level problems, because techniques that work face-to-face are unavailable. Here are eight tactics for controlling virtual blowhards. Available here and by RSS on March 29.
kudzu enveloping a Mississippi landscapeAnd on April 5: Listening to Ramblers
Ramblers are people who can't get to the point. They ramble, they get lost in detail, and listeners can't follow their logic, if there is any. How can you deal with ramblers while maintaining civility and decorum? Available here and by RSS on April 5.

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