Once you have established your presentation’s big idea and determined your destination, you also need a map—a persuasion plan. Persuasion involves asking your audience to change in one way or another, and change usually obligates people to move from their current way of being or acting and move to a new and different way of being or acting. Often, internal emotional changes must transpire before people manifest external change in their behavior.
Change is interesting to watch. We go to the movies or read a book to see the change that happens in the main character. This carefully planned change is called the character arc—the identifiable internal and external change that the hero endures.
When a screenplay is submitted for acquisition to a studio, a story analyst evaluates it by assessing the quality of the character arc. The story analyst determines the quality fairly quickly, simply by looking at the first and last pages of the script. The first page sets up who the hero is when the movie begins and the last page determines how much the hero changed during its course. This quick assessment of a screenplay determines if the hero’s journey changed her at all. If the hero didn’t change enough, it’ll be a boring film. Great stories show growth and transformation in the characters.
In the same way a story analyst looks at the first and last page of a screenplay, you must envision and study your audience at the beginning of your presentation—and who you want them to be when they leave. Upon entering the room, your audience holds a point of view about your topic that you want to change.
You want to move them from inaction to action; you want them to leave the room holding your perspective as dear and committing to it. This won’t happen without a carefully planned map.
When planning your audience’s journey, you have to establish where they are and where you want to move them to. Identify both the inner and outer transformation you want to achieve. If you can persuade them to change internally, you will usually see results in their actions. This outward change proves that they understood and embraced your big idea. When beliefs change, actions follow.
You might be thinking, “Gosh, I’m just presenting at my staff meeting, I can skip this step.” Perhaps a better option, in that case, would be writing and distributing a report. Although, if your staff meeting is about the status of a project that is over budget, you better get in there and move them from thinking that being over budget is okay, to taking responsibility and working hard to ensure the budget gets back on track. This, then, is a persuasive situation that requires a clearly defined journey.