On her excellent public-speaking blog, Dr Michelle Mazur published a post this week called The Most Overlooked Step in Creating Great Presentations. In it, she says you’re likely (if you’re like most people) to start preparing for a talk by making slides, whereas you’d be better served by first working out what type of talk you’ll give:
Do I want my audience to know something,
to do something immediately after my talk,
or to feel something?
I agree about how most speakers prepare, as I wrote here, but I disagree about there being 3 types of presentations:
- Informative (Know something)
- Emotive (Feel something)
- Persuasive (Do something)
Let me explain why I disagree with that 3-part model.
To me, John F Kennedy beautifully summed up public speaking when
he said (as quoted by Nancy Duarte in her book Resonate):
The ultimate purpose is almost certainly action
“The only reason to give a speech
is to change the world.”
John F Kennedy
That’s why, in any presentation, I believe the ultimate purpose is almost certainly action.
And by the way, the change you make can be small and involve just your world. As Seth Godin put it recently:
“Every presentation worth doing has just one purpose:
To make a change happen. … A presentation that doesn’t
seek to make change is a waste of time and energy.”
Is there any point letting people know something unless they do something as a result? I believe there’s not.
Speakers tend to just present information, and assume the audience will know what to do
Sadly, most talks do end up being just informative (Know), when they should really be persuasive (Do). But that’s simply because most presenters fail to fully grasp the true purpose of their talk. So speakers tend to just present information, and assume the audience will know what to do with it. Big mistake!
The real danger with “Know” talks is twofold:
- The speaker can’t tell how much of their wide knowledge to include.
- The audience can’t tell what the point is!
On the other hand, speakers who try to get audiences to do something can better judge whether each prospective piece of content helps to either persuade or instruct the audience. And the audience typically knows what the point is because it’s all about them taking some concrete action.
There’s no point getting people to feel something unless they act
Like with purely informative talks, the same is true of talks that focus on emotion. So there’s no point getting people to feel something unless they act as a result.
So if you want someone (even a serious business leader) to decide to do something, emotion’s the key – backed up by solid facts to underpin your case.
Every effective talk is a persuasive talk Tweet this
To me, every effective talk is a persuasive talk – it gets you to do something.
Ineffective talks let you know something – or get you to feel something – without causing you to do anything as a result.
The vast majority of biz presentations are ineffective
I’d say the vast majority of business presentations are ineffective. That’s because they’re full of information but they have no clear call-to-action. So the audience is unclear what to do with all the words, numbers and diagrams.
At the other end of the spectrum are poorly-planned motivational speeches. Those make you feel all fired up at the time, but they’re typically devoid of hard facts, and afterwards you realise, again, that there was no clear call-to-action. So like most business presentations, poor motivational speeches are ineffective.
What’s the solution then?
Rather than dividing talks into informative, emotive, and persuasive types, to me it’s more useful to treat each piece of content as having 2 dimensions: informative and emotive. Plotted on the chart below are four common types of content:
For instance, a photo of a child in distress is highly emotive but not informative. In contrast, raw data in a table or spreadsheet is highly informative but not emotive. An effective, persuasive talk uses content from diverse points on both the informative and emotive dimensions.
So don’t content yourself with just informing people, like most business presenters do. And don’t be like a bad motivational speaker either – emotive but equally ineffective. Instead, get people to do something – and you and your talk will tangibly change the world!
Over to you
- What’s your take on dividing talks into informative, emotive, or persuasive?
- Where would you plot different content types on the emotive/informative chart?
- I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment box below.
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