Great presentations don’t just happen. At least not the ones that have lasting impact. But it can be hard to know how to write a great presentation.
In our last 3 blogs, we’ve been trying to figure out how to structure a great presentation. We’ve taken information from one of the leaders in the industry and have unpacked TED’s speaker’s guide. This guide includes an easy-to-follow, 4-part presentation structure. Here are the steps: “1. Start by making your audience care, using a relatable example or an intriguing idea. 2. Explain your idea clearly and with conviction. 3. Describe your evidence and how and why your idea could be implemented. 4. End by addressing how your idea could affect your audience if they were to accept it.”
Today, we’ll look at this fourth and final step, to figure out what it means to “end by addressing how your idea could affect your audience if they were to accept it.” It’s all about ending with impact. We can compact this final movement of the presentation into two mystical sounding concepts (but don’t worry, they’re actually quite practical): the belief and the beyond.
When you’ve finished describing your evidence and have addressed how your idea could be implemented, your audience still has one giant question that it’s your responsibility to answer. “So what?”
The audience has to believe that what you have been talking about impacts them. Appealing to the audience isn’t something that just happens once in the introduction (refer back to TED’s first step in the structure). It’s something that has to be a thread that runs throughout your entire presentation. You should be weaving all of your communication around this thread—the one that keeps reminding the audience, “you should care about this because it affects you.”
If the audience doesn’t believe your presentation affects them, it won’t matter. And they’ll forget it. Dr. Shahram Heshmat says that in order to present information in a way that is impactful and lasting, you have to show how it has emotional significance. That means answering the big “so what?” question in light of the audience’s feelings.
Hashmat says, “Emotional intensity acts to narrow the scope of attention so that a few objects are emphasized . . . Focusing upon a very narrow area allows for an optimal use of our limited attentional capacity.” When concluding your presentation, hone in on the emotional impact of your message rather than running through stats and facts again.
Once the audience believes and sees how your presentation affects them, you have to motivate them to change. But that’s tough because the change happens in “the beyond.” You see, a presentation is isolated to a certain place and time. Granted, we can capture them on video and share them in the future. But the live, in-person event is a one-time thing. There is a beginning and an end. At the end, the speaker stops talking. And the audience gets up and walks out and goes about their business. That’s when the change will, or won’t, happen–in the beyond.
But how do you make sure your words and ideas get carried into the beyond? How do you make sure they don’t get left in the conference room or in the auditorium?
Author of Change-Friendly Leadership: How to Transform Good Intentions into Great Performance, Rodger Dean Duncan says, “Defining the future with absolute, irrevocable certainty is rarely possible. But you should try to paint a picture of it with as much clarity as practical.” In other words, give clear and specific details of how your ideas and information will change your listener’s lives on a daily, practical level. Duncan reminds us that change can be daunting, but our job as speakers is “to validate the journey . . . When you ask people to go from where they are to someplace else, your task is to create a vision that they can understand and will be willing to embrace.” So give the audience both the details and the inspiration they need to carry your ideas beyond the presentation.
You can conclude your presentation with impact when you foster the belief that your ideas affect the audience and when you give them the tools to carry these ideas into the beyond.
Great presentations don’t just happen. They are the result of great research, audience analysis, intentional information design, and lots and lots of practice. Ethos3 is a presentation design agency, and we’d love to tell you more about our full line of services.
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