You Are the Persuader by Justin S. Kahn

12 11 2009

Some say passion persuades. However, passion is but one element of persuasion. You must believe passionately in what you are saying. The audience must feel and see your passion. In a live presentation, that means they must see as well as hear you.

So many people are tempted to put their talk into an outline and present (or worse read) that outline to the audience slide by slide. You must work hard to eliminate the slide sirens that call you to read the words. It is seductive because it feels easier to you to simply press a button, look at your screen and read the text to the audience. A bad thing happens when you read…The audience does not look at you, they look at the screen. A connection is broken. An opportunity to persuade your passion is lost. The audience simply has a narrator reading what they see. The audience needs to be engaged in order to get the feeling of a powerful presentation.

The hard work for you is to choose the simple images and words to put on the screen. These should focus or highlight what you are saying, not simply outline what you are saying.

The aha moment for me came when I saw a particular blog post about 4 years ago. Gates, Jobs, & the Zen aesthetic. (I later bought the book Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds and it changed the way I present.)

Presenting well takes planning and practice. Planning what you want to say and how you want to mix images with the words you speak. When you practice, standing up as if you are presenting, including going through the slides at the right moment while talking aloud, you will see that certain things you say do not work with the images you are presenting. You will learn to tweak and change what you say and the order of presentation. As you practice, you will get comfortable.

You must get comfortable so that you will not be afraid to have a blank screen up while you are talking. During those blank screen moments, the audience will focus on you and what you are saying. You will have an opportunity to connect in ways that a slide simply cannot do.

zen_master4.jpg Steve Jobs.

If you try to compete with the slide, your persuasion will get lost. The audience must try to determine if it should pay attention to you or the slide. While that is going on, they are not listening. You become disconnected from the audience.

complicated_bill24.jpg Bill Gates.

Compare the two images. Steve Jobs is talking to the audience and not competing with the background. Bill Gates may be saying something important but you cannot possibly focus on both him and the slide information.

When Steve Jobs talks with a slide, it is easy to understand. The mind is not required to think so hard that it becomes distracted by the speaker.


Quite simply, when you speak with the screen blank and then put up an image, it will be for emphasis. The images and you will dance in a rhythm that will not be noticed because it seems natural. It is at that point that you can begin to convey the passion you have about what you are presenting and begin better persuasion.




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