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Determining the Goal of Your Presentation: Informing, Persuading or Both?

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

When determining the goal of your presentation, there are several key questions to ask yourself.

  • What do you want to accomplish?

  • Are you informing your audience or persuading them?

  • What do you want them to remember?

  • What do you want them to do when they leave the room?

It’s important to distinguish between needing to inform and needing to persuade because what we present, how we structure, and how we deliver the presentation varies, depending on our goal.

In the infographic attached to this post, you will see that informing involves presenting facts, usually objectively, often impersonally. We are appealing to our audiences’ rational, thinking brain.

When we persuade, we present opinions, which are subjective and personal, we express our “why”, what makes us passionate about what we do? We are appealing to our audience’s emotion emotional or primal brain.

As humans, we take action based on emotion. It’s the primal brain that moves people to support a cause or engage with an idea.

In the real world, it’s rare that we are purely informing or purely persuading. Many times, we are doing both. For example, we might be presenting data to make a case for building a new structure or forming a new department.

Determining where you need to be on the continuum will help you to select and structure your content. If you need your audience to do something, to allocate resources or approve a plan of action, you want to position yourself toward the persuasive end of the scale. You want to dedicate more of your time to persuasive elements than just giving information.

Let’s look at examples of topics that fall at various points along the continuum.

Purely Informing

Presentations in which you are purely informing could be scientific presentations in which you are reporting out data from an experiment or presentations about policies and procedures and how they will be implemented.

Purely Persuading

The stereotypical example of a persuasive presentation is the sales pitch of a used car salesman. The implication is that a used car salesman will not include too much information or “fact”, because he might be trying to sell you a vehicle that is not reliable or roadworthy. His pitch will consist of persuasive arguments that are crafted to get you to buy the car.

A Blend

An example of a mixed presentation could be using data to persuade your audience to take a specific course of action or reporting on the results of a project with the goal of convincing the powers that be to give you more resources to continue the project.

When you have to give a presentation, get in the habit of thinking about your goal for the presentation in terms of informing, and/or persuading. Do you need people to know? Or do you need people to act? Determining where you are on the continuum will enable you to prepare the right content for the job.

informing vs persuading

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