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4 ways to put your audience to work

3 min read


Nancy Duarte is author of “Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences” and CEO of Duarte Design in Silicon Valley.

A successful presentation can persuade an audience to change their behavior and take action — but presenters must clearly state exactly what they want their audience to do. Anticipating the audience’s needs is one of the first steps in presentation creation. Speakers can elicit behavior changes by tuning into their audience and crafting a message specifically for them. The personal appeal motivates the audience to act. The journey of presentation development begins where it ends: with the audience.

After immersing myself in all kinds of speeches –gallows speeches, patriotic calls to arms, keynote addresses — I discovered that almost all speeches request one of four outcomes. Whether a presentation is political, corporate or academic, the audience has just four roles to fulfill once the speech is over: doers, suppliers, influencers and innovators.

  1. Doers instigate activities. They are worker bees that take on physical tasks, as well as recruit and motivate other Doers to help them. These Doers can be asked to assemble, gather, decide, respond or try something.
  2. Suppliers get resources. These audience members have finances, staff or materials to advance your message. The Supplier can be asked to acquire, fund, support or provide resources.
  3. Influencers change perceptions. Consider these people thought leaders who can sway individuals and groups, motivating others to join your cause. The Influencer can be asked to adopt, promote, activate or empower.
  4. Innovators generate ideas. These people come up with new ways to modify and spread your message. They bring their brains to the table to create strategies, perspectives and products. The Innovator can be asked to create, invent, pioneer or discover.

Because every temperament is different, every audience member will have a natural preference for one type over the others. Providing each temperament with at least one action means everyone comes away from the presentation with an action they’re comfortable performing.

Be sure to identify actions that are simple, straightforward and easily executed. The audience should be able to connect their actions with a positive outcome for themselves or the greater good. When audience members see how they can help, momentum builds to quicker results.

Resist the urge to conclude with a dramatic call to action, because ending with a to-do list is not inspirational. Instead, connect the actions to positive results and paint a vivid picture of how the world will be a better place once these actions are accomplished.

Image credit: Roydee, via iStockPhoto