The Purpose of a Presentation is Change
I suppose not everyone would agree with this premise, but in fact, every presentation must have a purpose, a position it supports, and idea it champions, that requires that members of the audience make a choice to adopt it. In other words, to change. The best presentations, in the words of presentation guru Nancy Duarte, show their audience a better tomorrow.
How does that goal affect the structure, design and delivery of your presentation? Structurally, you must paint a realistic and clear picture of your audience’s current situation. What is it about the present that is difficult or painful. You must clearly outline the circumstances that are keeping your audience in their present situation. Is it that they are complacent? Or that there is no comprehensive or clear route to the future? You must show them, again in the words of Nancy Duarte, their future bliss if they choose to move to a new and better future.
What does your design need to do to encapsulate this idea? Well, one sure thing would be to include a photo like the one above and interpret it as an image that shows a clear path to the future and the yearning of the young man to get there.
And what about your delivery. I think two things are critical to helping your audience to accept your plan. The first is that you must never talk down to them about your plan. You might be standing in the promised land of the future, but arrogance or superiority on your part will never make anyone want to join you there. And second, you must offer your audience a hand out and up: a clear and compelling call to action.
Probably the most perfect example of such a speech is Martin Luther King, Jr’s I Have a Dream speech. You can download it here.
He did not talk down to his audience. He was of them and with them: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their minds. I have a dream …”
His depiction of the imperfect present: “We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and the Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.”
His call to action: “Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.”
You needn’t have a message as huge or as painful as Reverend King’s, but make sure that you do have a promise. You needn’t be an orator like Reverend King, but paint your own picture of the present. Live there with your audience, not above them. And show them your way to a better future.
30/365 Lucia’s photo-a-day series.
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