“HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations”

Recently, I read the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations by Nancy Duarte. The book brings together, and builds on, Nancy’s previous books, Slide:ology and Resonate, which I’ve blogged about extensively (this post includes links to the other seven posts in the series).

I won’t repeat too much of the content from Resonate and Slide:ology, but I will share some of my other favorite highlights.

Nancy points out the challenge for communicators, that they are sometimes too “self-focused.” She says, “They have a lot to say, they want to say it well, and they have little time to prepare.” One of the problems is, “These pressures make them forget what’s important to the audience.”

Nancy suggests …

Spend a moment in your audience’s shoes. Walk people through why the initiative matters to them and to the organization, what internal and external factors are driving it, and why their support will make it successful.

One of the misconceptions about communication, especially among preachers, is the purpose of the talk. It’s easy for preachers to think it’s all about the content, the information. But it’s really about transformation. Nancy writes …

When you present, you’re asking the people in the room to change their behavior or beliefs in some way, big or small. Before you begin writing your presentation, map out that transformation—where your audience is starting, and where you want people to end up. This is the most critical step in planning your presentation, because that desired endpoint is the whole reason you’re presenting in the first place, and people won’t get there on their own.

It’s important that the presentation connects with the hearers.

Whether you evoke frenzied enthusiasm or puzzled stares or glassy-eyed boredom depends largely on how well your message resonates with the audience.

Presentations must also be built around a single, big idea.

Your big idea is that one key message you must communicate. It’s what compels the audience to change course. (Screenwriters call it the ‘controlling idea.’)

Nancy suggests thinking through, and anticipating, the resistance of the hearers.

As a presenter, you’re asking people to chair their beliefs or behavior. That’s not something they’ll enjoy or find easy, so every audience will resist in some way. … So think through why and how they might resist, and plan accordingly.

Ultimately, presenters want to get listeners to act on their message. To accomplish that, presenters must build an effective call to action. Nancy argues …

Presentations move people to act—but only if you explicitly state what actions you want them to take, and when. … You might ask everyone to take just one action, or you might provide a few actions people can choose from. Either way, be explicit in your request—and how it will benefit the audience.

I especially like Nancy’s suggestion of using “metaphors as your glue.”

For each point you make in your presentation, try to come up with a metaphor to connect people’s minds to the concept. You might even weave it like a thread throughout the presentation.

Well, there’s a lot more, including more content from Slide:ology and Resonate. Even if you’ve read both books, it still worth reading. It’s a good guide for creating more persuasive presentations. It will definitely help me to be a more effective communicator!

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