Presentation Content

What Makes a Persuasive Presentation?

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The purpose of all advertising and marketing is to sell some idea. Be it, “I need that product”; “I want that product”; or “That product will make me feel good”. To be successful, the advert has to persuade the audience to believe the idea.

The purpose of most presentations is also to sell some idea. Think about it, at the base of every presentation you’ve ever given there’s probably been one key idea you’re trying to sell. Here are the key ideas which drove the last few presentations I worked on:

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  • “Hannah would be great at this job”,
  • “I can improve my presentation skills”,
  • “We need to spend more time on social media”,
  • “Prezi is a different tool to PowerPoint – great for some presentations, but not for others”.

In marketing and presenting, we’re really just selling – trying to make somebody accept an idea, so that they’ll take some action.

All of the most successful marketers in history have identified one crucial aspect which makes it possible to sell these ideas: emotion.

So why don’t we place just as much emphasis upon emotion when selling ideas in business? We’re trying to achieve the same end – persuade somebody to think a certain way…but many business people would balk at the idea of adding emotional considerations to a business presentation. Perhaps they think it’s unprofessional, irrelevant, or ridiculous.

But if marketers use emotion to sell ideas, why don’t we use them to sell ideas in our presentations?

What Makes a Persuasive Presentation? Emotion!

Even the most serious business audiences will be more easy to persuade if you add a little emotion to the mix. I’m not saying you should dedicate your whole presentation to the feelings of your audience. But adding some emotional appeal to your persuasive mix will draw people in to your idea.

When you think about it, most of the things we do are based on emotion: the belief that it will make us feel good. It’s a fact of life both when we’re at home, and at work. So whatever idea you’re trying to sell to your audience, showing them it’s in their best interest – i.e. it will make them feel good, will help you persuade them.

“Visceral response, not pure analysis, is what will push your audience away from the status quo and toward your perspective” – Nancy Duarte, Persuasive Presentations

Simply by showing your audience that your idea will make them feel better in the future, you will be more persuasive. You just have to work out how your idea will benefit your audience emotionally. Will it:

  • Make them happier, because they have more time to spend on other things?
  • Make them less stressed, because a big problem has been solved?
  • Give them more freedom to work on the things they’re interested in?

Emotion is one element of the persuasive mix which can make a persuasive presentation. The other is evidence, as I discussed in my previous post Show Don’t Tell

Hannah Jones
Hannah has spent the last few months getting to know PowerPoint and Prezi, and sharpening her design skills. Hannah shares presentation design and delivery advice as she learns it, and can often be found sharing the articles which have helped her on Twitter @impacttips.
Hannah Jones
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