In most business presentations, the focus is on data, logic and proof. And while these elements are definitely important, the savvy presenter knows that reaching the hearts of the audience will be a more effective way to create buy-in and action.
Every presentation we give asks an audience to change in some way. It may be embracing the new information you're providing; it may be doing something differently as a result of your presentation; or it may be adopting a new perspective/attitude. As Chip and Dan Heath state in their book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, people generally don't refuse to change because of lack of information but rather because of lack of motivation. Motivation provides the energy to act. Simply knowing something is not enough to create change; you must feel something.
So touching the hearts or emotions of your audience is a much surer and more lasting way to engage their minds. [This wonderful quote -- Touch the Heart to Teach the Mind -- is attributed to Jeff Swanagan, the former executive director of the Columbus Zoo.] Here are some presentation behaviors that speak to the emotions of your audience:
- Connect with your audience on a human level. Think of them as fellow human beings, not just as one-dimensional business colleagues or nameless strangers. Be genuine and sincere. As the speaker, assume the role of host at your own party, working to make your guests comfortable. Smile.
- Tell stories. Stories engage the audience and move them to relate to the subject matter on an emotional level. A well placed and well told story can also make the subject more memorable and understandable by creating context and helping the audience discover relevancy.
- Engage your audience by understanding what's important to them and weaving relevant references, anecdotes and examples into your presentation. Do your homework to find out how they feel about your topic and what bothers them. To make people care, you've got to tap into the things they care about.
- Closely related to the above point, understand and clearly communicate the WIIFM -- the "what's in it for me" -- for your audience. What about your presentation will make their life better? Don't assume the benefits of what you're speaking about are crystal clear to the audience and their situation. Spell it out. Use powerful language, stories, examples and analogies that leave no doubt about how they will benefit.
Incorporating these behaviors into your presentations will set you apart in the world of impersonal, fact-laden presentations which appeal only to an audience's intellect. For more lasting impact, reach their hearts.
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