Presentations are polarizing. Either you love them, or you hate them. As a presenter, your speech will firmly plant you in the minds of your audience as a good speaker and someone to remember, or as a poor presenter and someone who should be overlooked. Presentations can make or break you. Your next speech can help your personal brand, your career, and your business…or not.
To stack the deck in your favor, you are likely to be remembered if there is action after your presentation. If you can make your presentation the catalyst for moving forward on a successful project or by igniting personal change in your audience members, then you have a foothold on the notion that you are someone worth listening to.
How can you persuade people to action? Where do you start when creating an influential speech?
First, we must once again turn to the wise words of Stephen Covey’s adage, “Start with the end in mind”. A persuasive speech requires clarity around what you are persuading them towards.
So, before you start putting bullet points on your slides, sit down with a piece of notebook paper and answer the following questions.
- What do I want my audience to think by the end of this presentation?
- How do I want them to feel afterward?
- How will they act differently if they implement these ideas?
The answers to these three questions (think, feel, act) will give you a well-rounded view on what needs to be in your speech in order to achieve those goals.
For example, a client of mine had to present an innovative project to one of the world’s largest financial institutions. She creating her speech with the simple goal to: educate them on the project.
This a common mistake that the many professionals make. They falsely believe that educating a group on the facts is enough to be persuasive. Of course, as you read that last sentence, I’m sure you now clearly see how faulty that thinking is. No one is persuaded by just the facts.
Facts are only persuasive when they are paired with a vision of the future (good or bad), stories that elicit emotion, an analogy, or personal experience.
It’s no wonder why so many presentations are as bland as melba toast.
When we went through the three questions, she saw the gaps in her presentation. She wanted them to think that this was a great opportunity for the business, so we punched-up the sections on how the business would stagnate without the project. We created clear projections (with storytelling components) of what things would look if they did or did not move forward.
She wanted them to feel excited about the project, instead of overwhelmed or feeling burdened by doing something new (both of which were objections we identified in my presentation development process). So, in addition to the benefits to the company - the 30,000 ft view - we put in a section about the benefits to specific departments, teams, and team members. We brought the scope down to a more personal level, answering their internal question, what’s in it for me?
Then, she realized that her call to action in her presentation was too nebulous. It was simply, “Let’s get started.” I told her that you are more likely to elicit action out of others when you provide them with clear action steps. So, she concluded her presentation with a “Kickstart Action Guide” that outline when specific steps were needed from each party.
Even before her company signed up for the project (which they did), she could see how her presentation become much more persuasive by answering those 3 key questions.
As a presenter, the think, feel, act questions help you mold a speech that activates the 3 triggers your audience needs in order to be influenced by your ideas.
By answering how you want them to think differently, you first must identify how they are thinking now (objections, misperceptions, etc), then reverse engineer the process needed to get them to think positively about your ideas.
The feel question forces you to touch draw out certain emotions with the use of your language and illustrative points.
Finally, the act questions pushes to you specificity - something that is often lacking in many speeches. Once you have changed there minds and hearts, you need to give them a clear path to take with this newfound perspective.
Use these three questions to strengthen the persuasiveness of your speeches. You and your ideas will be remembered long after the speech is over.