In creating persuasive presentations, you have to answer a lot of questions, beyond just what you will say. Thinking about the following key elements of the entire presentation experience will get you that much closer to success.

1/ Know what your “Call to Action” is in the context of the conversation: Is it to build understanding, to generate real choices, or to make a critical decision? Each one of those landing points is different ending and requires different design choices for how the participants will spend their time in the beginning, middle and end of the conversation.

2/ Figure out who should be invited and why: Move from the “must invite” team of political insiders and past meeting participants to a diverse dream team of voices that include provocative creatives, lead customers, adjacent industry players, network connectors and industry experts. But sending an invite to diverse folks isn’t enough to secure a successful outcome. Be sure to spend some time thinking empathetically about what motivates and threatens them in order to engage their best creative contribution.

3/ Explore visual ways to frame the issue: The hardest part of preparing for a strategic conversation is to figure out exactly what the problem is. Albert Einstein is famous for saying, “if I had 60 minutes to solve a problem, I’d spend the first 55 minutes figuring out what the problem was.” Frames serve to narrow or expand the lens on a problem, ideally helping it become more solvable. Visuals are often much more effective than words to communicate the problem in ways that people can really understand. As visual thinking guru Dan Roam likes to say: “If you know what problem you need to solve, you can draw the picture.”

4/ Set the conditions for success: Conversations don’t happen in vacuums. They happen in physical environments that either support our best work, or distract us from being fully present.  Make sure to architect an appropriate space stocked with the right materials to support your conversation – seek out rooms with natural lighting and fresh air, scope out vertical wall space for whiteboarding, give sharpies and post-its to everyone for democratic ideation.  When you need to create a true sand box of imaginative possibility, you DO have to sweat the small stuff.

5/ Map the experience: If you were to plot the emotion of an average meeting with time on the x-axis and emotion on the y-axis, you’d likely see a graph that looked like a flat line. Passion is often intentionally checked at the door of many important conversations, because it is assumed that unchecked emotions will bring out our worst instincts, subject us to biases, and derail the meeting’s agenda. But emotionless meetings also risk something else – when participants are stuck on autopilot, the most important opportunities for true collaboration may go unrealized. Below is a chart that maps a hypothetical two-day strategic planning offsite with the De La Salle Christian Brothers using mostly data to create a strategic plan.

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