The 5 Steps to Giving a Persuasive Presentation

If you’re trying to give a persuasive presentation, I recommend doing it as a five-part process. We have found this five-part structure will keep you most focused on the audience and therefore most likely to succeed in persuading them. It applies to an audience of any size.

Part 1. Opener. The opener has a single purpose: to make the audience feel a pain that can only be relieved by adopting your recommendation. Business pain can take three forms: problem, opportunity, or weakness.

Summarize the pain with a brief personal story:

I had a talk with our biggest account today, and she said she’s considering taking her business to our principal competitor because when she deals with us, she feels we’re “just phoning it in.”

Part 2. Recommendation. You have the audience’s attention now, so while the pain is uppermost in their minds, tell them how to relieve it. State your recommendation.

Your recommendation is not some generalized thing like, “Let’s all pull together.” People dismiss such platitudes out of hand. Your recommendation must be specific, and it must tell the people in the audience what to do. This is not the time to get into details. At this stage of your presentation, your recommendation is a vision of the future. Create that vision as simply as possible:

We’re going to become the most customer-focused company in our industry.

Part 3. Benefits. Now it’s time to walk the audience over the bridge to the informational part of the presentation. That bridge is the benefit of adopting your recommendation.

Offer no more than two benefits, and use the word “you” when you state them. Imagine a specific, quantifiable outcome you can use to make it real. Don’t say, “This will improve customer retention.”

Say, “This will keep the business of our biggest account and will make it impossible for any other customer to imagine leaving us.” In other words, create a mental picture for them of what their lives will be like after adopting your recommendation.

Part 4. Support. At this point, the audience should be sympathetic to your recommendation. Many of them want to adopt it. After all, they have pain, they have glimpsed the cure for that pain, and now they have seen the benefit to their life of adopting it. Now you deal with whatever remaining skepticism they might have by offering evidence to support your recommendation. There are five forms of evidence: data, expertise, cases, image, and story.

Part 5. Action. The last step is to ask the audience to take the first step toward implementing your recommendation. This prevents them from putting off the decision, and it involves them in its implementation. In order to make sure they act, you must assign a deadline. The deadline should always be the same: “Before we leave here today…”

Offer them a substantive step that can be taken immediately. This gains your audience’s commitment to the recommendation, and it gives the plan a constituency: people who have already invested some effort in it.

Before we leave here today, we will set departmental schedules for training every employee in this company in the skills of customer care.

If, as sometimes happens, you’re faced with a choice of a major action step later or a more modest one immediately, I recommend the immediate step. At this point, the audience’s involvement is more important than the project itself.


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