We create presentations for many reasons. To move people. To sell products. To change minds.

Part of designing and delivering a great presentation comes down to understanding human needs. If you don’t know what motivates people, you might end up with a presentation that falls flat.

There are many models of human motivation which can help us explain human behavior. You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But today we’ll look at a lesser known model and examine how we can use human motivation to create presentations that resonate with our audiences.

The CIA needs model stands for control, identity, and arousal. And each of these levels gives us important information about how we can design and deliver presentations that meet these basic human desires.

Control Needs

Human beings like to have the sense that they are in control. Research shows it’s essential to our well-being. But how does this relate to presentations? Here are some ways you can respect the human need for control as a public speaker:

  • Give the audience a summary of where your presentation is headed. This way, they feel like informed participants rather than unimportant bystanders.
  • Focus your content in ways that show how your ideas or products lead to increased control for your audience. How will the things you are talking about foster a greater sense of control?
  • Control boils down to navigating risks. So in order to help the audience feel a sense of control, minimize the risks they have to take to adopt your ideas, to hire your company, or to purchase the product you are promoting.

Identity Needs

Humans also have the need to understand who they are as it relates to their behavior. This is why self-assessment tests like the Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram are so popular. We are always trying to answer the question, “who am I?” Use these tips to help you appeal to the identity needs of your audience:

  • Research your audience before you start writing content. Get to know their demographics, their sociocultural background, their group affiliations, their prior knowledge about your presentation, and so on. This is called audience analysis. Know them so that you can craft your presentation for them.
  • Appeal to their need to belong. Show them how your presentation makes them part of a bigger picture that involves others who have caught the vision.
  • Research shows humans also have a need to display autonomy. So, appeal to your audience members’ need to stand out. Affirm their uniqueness by acknowledging that you know that not everyone’s opinions or thoughts align with your own. Give them a “voice” even though they aren’t speaking. This comes in the form of statements like “I realize you might not agree.” Or, “I understand you might have another view of this.”

Arousal Needs

Humans want to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” to quote Henry David Thoreau. This speaks to our need for arousal. Changingminds.org tells us that our “need for arousal tells us that we are learning, improving and evolving. It also helps us compete.” Arousal needs can come in many forms, but the primary three are cognitive arousal (the stimulation of learning something new), physical arousal (the challenge of pushing your body to its optimal performance), and affective arousal (the emotional response to something that moves us). In order to appeal to the audience’s need for arousal:

  • Tell stories of risk and triumph. This reminds us that failure is inevitable, but that we can overcome risks. And it humanizes your content in way that the audience will easily identify with.
  • Make sure the content you are presenting is new to your audience. Tell them new things to light up their cognitive arousal. Don’t bore them by telling them what they already know.
  • Use pathos—appeal to emotions. While logic is important, research tells us that people largely make decisions based on emotions.

While developing your presentation content and your presentation media, keep these questions in mind. Have I helped to bolster my audience’s sense of control? Does my presentation appeal to their identity needs? And does my content appeal to my audience’s need to live fully and to feel alive? When you can answer yes to these questions, your content is ready to move your audience.

Want to learn more scientifically backed ways to create presentations that move and wow your audience? Get in touch with us now.



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