Every presentation you ever deliver is designed to persuade the audience to accept your point of view. Can you think of any other reason to make a presentation?
Not to nitpick, but a speech is not a presentation. A speech is a lecture by an authority, such as a researcher delivering the results of a 10-year study of a new drug to a medical association. It’s educational.
Taking that example a step further, a presentation of those results to the FDA would be designed to persuade the FDA to approve the drug to help cure a disease.
Get Their Attention First
If you’re delivering a presentation, show your audience how you can solve their problems. You want them to accept your point of view. You need to arouse the feelings of the audience so they adopt your premise or position and then help to implement the solution you propose.
But, first, you need to get their attention. Let’s use organ transplants as our example because the lack of organ donors is a national health policy issue.
- Open with a startling statement, statistic or quote related to the topic. “Did you know that more than 93,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant, and more than 9,000 will die before receiving one? We’ve got to improve our record and here are my suggestions of how we can do it.”
- Use a local example of the problem. “More than 10,000 New Yorkers are currently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant and someone dies every 15 hours waiting for one.”
- Ask a rhetorical question. “How would you feel if you were on that waiting list?” Then answer the question, “I’ll bet you wouldn’t be very happy.”
After you’ve gotten the audience’s attention, move on to the next step.
Define the Problem
This is an important step because you’ve got to convince the audience of the seriousness of the problem and demonstrate what’s in it for them if it’s solved. You’re gradually building the case for your point of view.
- Describe the nature of the problem. “The reason there aren’t more organ transplants is because people aren’t educated about the need until it strikes someone in their own family.”
- Suggest various causes. “More people don’t donate their organs because registering as a donor is too difficult now. Family members are often the roadblock because they refuse to allow the donation the organs of loved ones who have died.”
- Give local and wide-ranging effects. “Since we first gathered in this room, another person has died waiting for a transplant. That’s unacceptable, don’t you agree?”
- Show how the problem directly affects the listeners. “Someone in your family either has or will have a debilitating illness such as heart disease, liver or kidney failure. They could die if we don’t solve this problem of increasing the number of organ donors.”
Solving the Problem
Once you’ve defined the problem, with appropriate reasons why it’s important to each member of the audience, present your solution. You could say, “We need to have a healthy debate about presumed consent – that a person is presumed to want to donate his organs in the absence of specifically opting out. We’re all aware of the arguments on both sides, but I’m convinced this is how it could work.”
Appeal for Audience Action
It’s at this point where many presentations go awry. The speaker presents the problem and offers a solution, but doesn’t ask the audience to act! Ask them to do what is appropriate for your topic: write to their legislators, vote for you, accept your budget, or give you their business.
Give the audience the opportunity to weigh in with their opinions about your solution. You might be presently surprised to find the group rallying around a variation on your proposal, combining your best thinking with the ideas offered by members of the audience. After getting their buy-in you’re prepared for the next step.
Summarize the important points that have been discussed and the agreed-upon solution or solutions. Acknowledge the individuals who contributed their ideas. Challenge the audience to act and make a commitment to follow through on the promises made.
If you’ve done your job, you may have just created a group of evangelists who will rally around your point of view and act on it.