The New Rules of Persuasive Presentations

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With all due respect, Mr. Carnegie, your 3 rules to public speaking are broken.

Yes, I said it. Dale Carnegie is wrong about the whole public speaking thing. Hey, I’m as big a fan of good ol’ DC as anyone, but it’s a different world out there in the post information age, where attention is held at a premium.

The Rules Have Changed

Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
Tell them.
Tell them what you’ve told them.

While the “3 Rules” used to be effective, it’s become a formula for how to be as boring as the next mediocre speaker.  The reason is simply because it has become the de facto presentation formula that so many people use.

With that being said, unless most of the meetings and presentations you have to sit through are riveting talks, my point has been proven.

So Now What?!

Here’s my proposed “New Rules of Persuasive Presentations”:

–Shatter their expectations
–Tell them why they’ll leave better off
–Move them from ‘What Is’ to ‘What Could Be’ and back
–Bring it full circle

Shatter their expectations
When we sit down in a board room meeting, we have certain expectations. Perhaps we expect the meeting to start with a guy in a tie greeting the group and passing out an agenda… If it does start that way, we tend to go into a bit of a trance, as we feel like we know what’s coming and therefore are free to space out a bit.

Instead, do something totally unexpected, like making an odd observation that is completely unrelated to the matters at hand, reciting a funny quote from a movie, or even getting your audience to partake in breathing or stretching exercises.

By doing this, it causes our audience to wonder what will come next, since it goes against the expectations. So rather than assume that they already know what’s coming next, because they’ve sat through this same presentation before, they’ll now have to pay attention to see what happens next.

Tell them why they’ll leave better off
As you dive into the actual presentation, rather than telling them what you’re going to say, tell them why they should listen – tell them the benefit that they will receive by virtue of what you’re about to deliver. This allows you to control the context and importance of your message, rather than letting them make assumptions or draw conclusions about your topic.

Along these lines, if you’re using slides, they should not attempt to tell the whole story. The slides should only act as props in the story. The advantage here is that while props may raise curiosity, which forces them to listen, they’re not the main focus. The main focus is you and what you have to say.

Move them from ‘What Is’ to ‘What Could Be’ and back
When you’re presenting, you’re pitching. Whether that’s literally pitching a product or service, pitching an idea or concept, or pitching that the time spent listening to your presentation is worthwhile, you’re still pitching. So this next step is used to move the audience from where they are today, with the challenges that are faced, to where they could be, if they employed whatever tactic, strategy or concept that you are, in fact, pitching.

Where we are now…
Where we could be…
And back…

Doing this throughout the presentation can cause a dramatic and moving effect. It causes the audience to consider, if not accept, your concept and visualize its actualization. And if you can get to this point, you’re well on your way.

Bring it full circle
To this point, you’ve gained your audience’s attention, got them interested in the benefits of whatever it is you’re pitching, and you’ve caused them to visualize being better off in the future, recognizing what’s lacking in the present. The last step is to introduce the solution that matches up perfectly to deliver the desired benefits and outcomes.

Throughout the earlier part of the presentation, you should be alluding to your offering, solution or concept, so when introduced, it’s both congruent and apparent that it is the answer. Think of how Steve Jobs would always unveil brilliant new products – it was exactly in this manner as he would get his audience wanting his solution, without them even realizing he had engineered that exact outcome.

It’s important to note that your promise, concept or idea has to deliver, or this all simply becomes hype, rather than a powerful and persuasive pitch. However, if you know you can deliver, pitch hard using this method. It’s a formulaic process that is taken from some of the best out there and will ensure that you invigorate and captivate your audience.

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