Making Your Presentation Change Behavior

The purpose of any persuasive speech or presentation is to encourage the changing of behavior. But even some of the most persuasive presentations, loaded with analytical data, fail to motivate the audience to act.

That’s because the audience fails to emotionally connect with the message, even though they may agree with it.

That’s part of the premise behind a new book called Switch: How to Change Things, When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath, the brother duo that produced the 2007 beststeller Made to Stick.

In order for people to not only want to change, but also be motivated to do so, the authors say you need to appeal to two types of personalities: the Elephant (people’s emotional side) and the Rider (the rational side).

The authors acknowledge this is difficult, because the Elephant often overpowers the Rider. When you fail to stick to a diet or push the snooze button, that’s your elephant overpowering your rider, they note.

To change behavior, you’ve got to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant and shape the Path. If you reach your audience’s Rider, but not their Elephant, they will have direction without motivation.

How do you develop a presentation packed with the proper emotional/rational combination?

Some people think the persuasive presentations is filled with analytical data, with a formula like:


But that formula will only work for small changes, the authors note. For big changes, however, the Heath brothers, citing a study called the “The Heart of Change,” say the formula is:


To illustrate this, the authors describe Jon Stegner’s dilemma in the Heart of Change study. He was tasked to correct the poor purchasing habits of a large manufacturer. He discovered, in one example, all the departments were buying work gloves from many different distributors at a wide range of costs: $5 – $17. The no-brainer solution would be for all departments to buy the same $5 gloves.

But how do you motivate all the people in charge of purchasing to care enough to do so?

The ANALYZE > THINK > CHANGE approach would be for someone to produce a spreadsheet showing all 424 gloves and their costs.

But the SEE > FEEL > CHANGE approach would be to do what Stenger did. He collected the 424 different types of gloves and tagged them with the price tag. Then the gloves were gathered up, brought to the boardroom and dumped on the conference table. Stegner invited all the division presidents to come visit the Glove Shrine.

That’s what the Heath brothers call making “a gut-level emotional connection.”

In your next presentation, ask yourself: Am I making a gut-level emotional connection with the audience?

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