If the goal of your presentation is persuasion, let me introduce you to my favorite organizational structure for any presentation given for the purpose of driving action: Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. This isn’t just an organizational sequence for large public speeches or presentations; it can also be used as an organizational framework for any business conversation.
There are five steps in the sequence. You need them all to be maximally effective.
Step one: attention
The goal of this first step is to make sure everyone in the room — physical or virtual — or taking part in the discussion is on the same page. When people are tasked with giving a public speech or presentation in a business setting, we often revert back to basic public-speaking training we may have received, thinking we need to start out with a joke or some other attention-getting tactic.
But in business, clarity tends to be more important. That’s not to say you can’t use humor and make your presentation fun, but you don’t need to overthink it. Sometimes in business this step is built in, and calling a meeting to order is enough. Keeping their attention is the challenge, and we’ll delve into that in the next step.
Step two: establish the need
The second step in the sequence is to establish the need for your communication (the message, the presentation, why people are gathered, etc.). This is a critical step, and it’s not always communicated clearly. Establishing the need means you’re being crystal clear about why everyone is in the room and needs to listen in the first place. It’s also about what you need your audience to contribute to the conversation and how you want them to behave. This is where you have a chance to unite your audience and put everyone on the same playing field. How you phrase and position the need will vary based on the situation.
An example of a simple statement establishing the need and the expectations for a problem-solving meeting could be: “We’re all here today to solve the problem of our declining sales. Each department brings a different way of approaching sales that’s valuable, and your unique perspectives and experiences will help create the solution.”
Establishing the need in a sales presentation might look like this: “We’re all here to learn about ways to more effectively manage our organization’s social media efforts. With the growing number of platforms and channels, keeping up with all of them to make sure customer comments don’t fall through the cracks is increasingly difficult. And, unless you’re a superhero — and maybe you are — you need a solution to help you manage this so your customers always receive a prompt response.”
You’re basically getting invisible head nods (or maybe even visible, if you’re good) from your audience. They’re agreeing with the need. You’re all in the same court. Then you’re prepared to deliver the one-two punch that is establishing the need and then satisfying it.
Step three: satisfying the need
Now you have your audience ready for a solution, or ready to contribute to the solution. The third step in the sequence is how you bring that solution to the table. In this step, you typically expand on data or facts that you presented in Step 2 and show how your solution will change the status quo.
If this is a persuasive presentation or a sales pitch, now’s the time to unveil your service or product that will solve the problem and satisfy the need. If you’re using this structure to organize a team meeting, the satisfaction step is where a lot of the teamwork and individual contributions come into play. This is where people support what they help create. Seek input from team members and have them help craft a solution to the problem.
A word of caution: If you’re using the sequence in a presentation where you’re the speaker and you have no solution or satisfaction, you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t allow contributions from the audience in an effort to co-create. It’s better to own that you don’t have the answer and ask for help than to pontificate about the need without a concrete plan (think about the audience’s frustration at presidential — or any political — debates, where problems are raised but no clear solutions are presented).
Step four: visualization
You’ve likely heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” That statement absolutely applies in the visualization step. Here you help your audience visualize what their world would look like if they took the action you’re about to request, how their lives would be enhanced if they adopted your solution, the improvements they’d see in changing the status quo — in other words, the results they can expect from the solution you’re providing but in Technicolor!
Paint a picture with words. This is where you get to demonstrate the effectiveness of your product or solution by helping your audience picture your solution in their world. This is where it goes beyond information to starting to apply that information in context.
Step five: call-to-action
The most overlooked step in business communication is failing to ask for an action. This can mean a meeting where you deliver great information but don’t tell your team the next steps. Or where you provide relevant details but fail to tell someone what to do with the information. Or it can simply be failing to ask for the sale.
Sometimes we assume that just because somebody sees the potential, they’ll act on their own accord. Often, leaders and managers of companies and teams assume that since they’re in a position of authority, their employees know how to act — and will eagerly and willingly choose to act — on information that was provided. This assumption can be quite costly.
You don’t get what you don’t ask for! People can’t read your mind.
In this last step, you need to tell people what actions, results or decisions they need to take or make. In a sales conversation, you’re not going to get to the end of your meeting without asking your prospect for their business. The same goes for any meeting, presentation or speech where you’re expecting or hoping for the audience to act.
No matter what type of presentation, team meeting, sales conversation or public speech you’re leading, each must have some type of organizational pattern. The last thing you want while giving your presentation is your audience wondering where you’re going next. A confused mind does not buy. A confused mind does not make decisions. Having clarity about how information is presented, and delivering it in a structure that makes sense to your audience, will drive bigger, better and faster results.