Top 3 Ways to Structure a Persuasive Presentation

Public speaking gave birth to the world’s first democracy. It was fifth century Athens and citizens of the city-state would gather in the agora, a public square of sorts, to discuss matters they considered important to life. These great orators believed being a good citizen also meant giving persuasive presentations (PowerPoint not included).

The problem for most people today is they don’t know how to structure a persuasive presentation. It’s what almost crippled Simon Sinek during the writing of his second book, Leaders Eat Last.

Overwhelmed with information on why some teams pull together and others don’t, he wasn’t sure how to logically bring it all together in an inspiring and understandable book. Luckily, Sinek had a dear friend who pushed him to see the work through, but I can only imagine how many people with extraordinary ideas have never written their book or delivered their presentation because they didn’t know how to structure it.

Even context though. Here, I share with you the top 3 ways to structure a persuasive presentation – so you never have to let a great message go unheard again.

The Problem-Cause-Solution-Feasibility Approach

It’s exactly what it sounds like:

  1. You start with a problem your audience can relate to
  2. Identify the causes of the problem to add credibility to your argument
  3. Propose your solution to the problem and why it works
  4. Demonstrate evidence to show the feasibility of your solution
  5. Call-to-action

For example, you’re selling a “De-Tantrum Machine,” a nifty little invention that calms your child’s tantrums.

The problem is that your child throws a tantrum five times a day. These tantrums are caused by little ones getting off their normal routine and being told “no.” Your “De-Tantrum Machine” plays sounds that magically calm tantrums and reduce their frequency. Over 1,000 parents already report significantly less tantrums using the “De-Tantrum Machine.” Buy yours today.

Andy Raskin’s Narrative Strategy Approach

I’m a big fan of Raskin and have used his Narrative Strategy approach numerous times. You can read Raskin’s full breakdown in his viral Medium article “The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen.

Here’s how I use the Strategic Narrative approach to persuade people to join Free MBA.

  1. Name a Big, Relevant Change in the World – In 2019, 250,000 less people enrolled in college in the United States than the year before. And rightfully so. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, education has gone largely unchanged despite the world around it changing rapidly. It’s the still the same compliance-based, obedience-producing and lecture-driven system that was originally built to produce factory workers, not empathetic problem-solvers. It’s perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.
  2. Show There’ll Be Winners & Losers – Today, the average student walks away from four years of school with only a $51,000 salary and $30,000 in debt. It’s embarrassing. And 74% of students feel their schools have failed to prepare them for the real world. We cannot afford to let our children walk blindly into a system that’s more interested in guaranteeing their loans than actually preparing them to make a difference in this world.
  3. Tease the Promised Land – Luckily, the solution is not that difficult to create. It only takes two changes: 1) flip the learning process so that lectures are watched online at home and class-time is reserved strictly for projects that solve interesting problems, and, 2) make the things that most students and professors agree are actually most beneficial about school (extra curricular activities, clubs, networking socials, case study projects – AKA the things that students with families and jobs have extremely limited access) the central part of schools. In short: no one should ever have to pay another dime for a lecture. If you’re going to take the kid’s money future income, create a project-based, peer-led learning experience they can’t possibly get on YouTube.
  4. Introduce Your Features as “Magic Gifts” for Overcoming Obstacles to the Promised Land – In the old world of education, lectures are a costly waste of everyone’s time and students have no time or freedom to develop skills and solve problems that actually matter. In the new world, lectures are secondary. Quality information available freely to all. Instead, students pay to engage in problem-solving projects with their peers. That’s what Free MBA aspires to bring you.
  5. Present Evidence that You Can Make the Story Come True – Alternative education solutions like altMBA and The Power MBA already help thousands of passionate learners gain skills they actually care about. More programs like these and Free MBA will continue to attract people who want to make a real difference in the world and recognize that traditional education is not the answer.

As you can see, the Strategic Narrative approach is very powerful. For a minute there, you probably forgot you were reading about presentation structures, not the broken school system.

Speaking of school…

Monroe’s Motivated Sequence Approach

This is a classic, fool-proof persuasive presentation structure:

  1. Get the audience’s attention by immediately tying to your thesis to what already matters to the audience
  2. Much like the winners/losers step of the Strategic Narrative approach, the need step of Monroe’s Motivated sequence illustrates how urgent a need it is for the audience to take action
  3. Deliver satisfaction (because you’ve just built tension with your need step) by outlining your solution to the audience
  4. Help the audience visualize what life will be like after they take action
  5. Call-to-action

If your presentation doesn’t deliver maximum impact, you either have the right message but wrong structure or the right structure but the wrong message. But if you have both of those critical elements nailed down, it’s almost impossible to fail (unless you’re timid throughout the whole deliver and merely speaking for survival instead of impact… but that’s a story for another day).

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