Do your presentations just inform—or do they INSPIRE?
It’s that time again. Time to put together another review for your team or your clients. But wait—before you even get started, let me ask you a few questions:
What’s this presentation for? Why are you going to all this trouble and effort?
If your immediate response was “to inform,” you’re partly right.
That is, yes, every presentation is going to have facts and figures. You’ve got to have some “stuff” in your presentation. Charts. Graphs. Data. Clip art. News.
But if “stuff” is all you have, you’re only going to impart information. And yes, that information will go into people’s heads. Some people will change their behavior based on your data—if they remember it. But, most people walk away from info-laden presentations and immediately forget all the facts and data imparted to them.
When leaders come to me for advice on how to become better presenters, they ask questions such as “How do I make this boring information more interesting?” or “How many slides do I need?”
What leaders should be asking instead is “What does my audience need to know to help them make better decisions?” or “What insights can I bring to explore what it means?” or even better, “How can I make this presentation come alive?”
Let’s start exploring the first best step for memorable and meaningful presentations: to transform information into inspiration.
Breathing in new life
We’ve all been to those presentations. You know, the ones where we pretend to take notes when we’re really putting together our grocery list. Where it feels like the air has been sucked out of the room. We’re bored. We’re waiting for it to be over. We’d give real money to be anywhere else.
What a shame. You know the presenter put in time and effort on the presentation. And heaven help us if we discovered we were that presenter!
Then there are those other presentations. The ones where we are unaware of the time. We’re engaged. We feel energized. We wish it wouldn’t end. We’ve discovered something new. We think, “this is an amazing speaker!”
What’s the difference? One provides information—the other provides inspiration.
The word ‘inspire’ comes from the Latin ‘inspirare’ to blow into or breath in, to impart a truth or idea to someone. More modern definitions include to “animate someone with a feeling,” “fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something creative,” to breathe in (air), inhale.
Inspiration involves action from both the presenter and the audience. The definition itself is filled with energy and motion.
Conversely, ‘inform’ is from Middle English “to give form to, form in the mind, teach, describe.” It describes a one-sided “versation” or lecture which is much more passive.
If you’re just trying to inform people, my advice is to save yourself a lot of work. Don’t go through the trouble of creating a presentation—complete with enough slides to induce Death by PowerPoint.
Send an email. Write a report. Give it offline. If they can find the facts somewhere else, point them in that direction.
Don’t get me wrong. Data, facts, figures, and stats can be helpful to your audience to provide context and credibility. But don’t miss the opportunity to bring YOU and your insights into the picture. To really impact people, to make lasting changes in what people do—the what and how—you must impact the why. Why does this matter? Why should they care?
Too many presenters don’t take the audience into account. They’re just concerned with getting across their facts and data as quickly as possible so they can step out of the uncomfortable spotlight. They then are left scratching their head when their presentation is here today, gone tomorrow: “What’s wrong with them?” you say. “I gave them all the information they needed!”
The problem is that information alone isn’t going to change people or situations. At best, after learning new information people may change how they approach work today—but by the next day, they’ve forgotten your presentation and they’re back to doing things The Same Old Way.
Fueling action in the brain
Research has shown that data (i.e. information) appeals to the left side of our brain—logic, order, structure. But not action. The left brain analyzes. It doesn’t motivate. Data will inform but it won’t enthuse.
What does move us to change? Right brain. This is where imagination, feelings, emotions live. And this is the energy that fuels action.
Daniel Kahneman, psychology professor from Princeton, won the 2002 Noble Prize in Economics for his Prospect Theory. The theory asserts that humans make decisions emotionally first, rationally second.
So, if you want to motivate your audience, help them to understand opportunities or what’s at stake to lose, your presentation can’t rely solely on facts, logic, statistics or data. Your presentation needs to be filled with your insights that appeal to our right brains (i.e. feelings).
Inspiration changes how your audience feels
To make your presentations truly impactful and memorable, enabling lasting changes in people’s behavior and decisions, you need to connect to what your audience feels.
The ability to inspire is one of the single most important leadership skills that separates great leaders from average ones. Inspirational leaders give inspirational presentations—and lift their audience to another level. They use the opportunity to share a vision, provide awareness and insights.
That is what makes a great presentation great. It changes how their audience feels about a topic—maybe about themselves or the impact on others—and therefore drives engagement and lasting action.
To connect with emotions and inspire your audience, it requires that you go beyond the surface of the data. Tell them what the data means. Give them your observations. Provide them context so that they can understand the depth of your message. Let them see a new perspective.
Ultimately, we want to ensure we are answering the questions: Why should they care about this? What does it mean to them?
Maya Angelou, poet and author, said it best: “I have learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
That’s the difference between information and inspiration.
Whether you are making a recommendation, providing an update or driving a decision, knowing how to bring inspiration—breathe life—into your presentation will transform a mediocre message into something memorable and impactful.
A presentation that changes people and gives your audience the choice to tune in emotionally instead of tuning out intellectually.
Share your intuition. Connect the dots. Speak your passion. Breathe in and breathe out.
Now, that’s a presentation that inspires.
Do you want to bring more inspiration into your presentations? Check out NobleEdge’s "The Art of Skilled Presentations" training. For groups and individuals, this presentation skills training brings together theatre arts and human psychology to reduce anxiety, build confidence and move your audience to action.
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