If the audience is the hero in your presentation, which they should be, then the objective during your presentation is to get them past the fourth step in the wheel below. Your presentation takes them to the threshold, but it’s their choice whether to cross it or not.

The Hero's Journey Presentation Chart

At the heart of your presentation there’s an idea, and when you’re presenting you’ll ask the audience to adopt it and shepherd it into the world. It might involve recasting the shape of an organization, or explaining how your product fills a customer’s needs. It might involve helping students internalize certain subject matter or perform well on a test. Whatever it is, adopting this idea will require the audience to consciously step into something new.

You need to acknowledge that no change you request from your heroes will be made without a struggle. Making a change is not easy. Convincing people they should commit to change is probably the greatest challenge an organization can face. The time the hero meets the mentor is exactly the time that he or she needs to make the decision to cross the threshold—and enter the special world. The parallel to making a presentation is lovely. Your ideas will help the audience commit to making a change. If you do a good job, they’ll voluntarily cross the threshold and enter the special world. But you can’t force them.

If the audience sees your presentation and then makes the decision to cross the threshold and adopt your perspective, they will start out on the rest of The Hero’s Journey (stages five through twelve) as soon as they leave. Since you’re their mentor, you should prepare them as well as you can for what to expect as they continue the journey, and equip them for success along the way. In movies, the stages of The Hero’s Journey usually take place in a chronological sequence. But in a presentation, you aren’t bound by the constraints of time and place. The presentation medium gives you the freedom to move around in any order you want as you address insights into how your audience can accomplish steps five through twelve.

Let’s remember that there is one indisputable attribute of a good story: there must be some kind of conflict or imbalance perceived by the audience that your presentation resolves. This sense of discord is what persuades them to care enough to take action. In a presentation, you create imbalance by consciously juxtaposing what is with what could be.

Clearly contrast who the audience is when they walk into the room with whom they could be when they leave (crossing the threshold into a special world).

What is versus what could be. Drawing attention to that gap forces the audience to contend with the imbalance until a new balance is achieved.

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