The Key to Credibility is…


Another entry on Prezi’s Top 100 Presentation Resources list is my superteacher partner in crime, Chiara Ojeda of Tweak Your Slides. Check out this post she wrote yesterday on empathy using two great videos, one animating Brene Brown’s work…

Tweak Your Slides

Empathy! Yep, that’s right–not credentials, expertise, title, or extensive research. The key to achieving strong credibility with your audience is to empathize with them. Why is this? Because, empathizing with the audience helps speakers achieve the type of true credibility Aristotle describes in Rhetoric:

“We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided. . . his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses.” Aristotle, Rhetoric

True credibility comes from a person who is “good,” a person of good character. Empathy, the ability to become your audience’s needs, wants, values, fears, and desires, is key to conveying good character. A presenter who can empathize with his or her audience is truthful–no one likes to be lied to; a presenter who is empathetic conveys…

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A Whole New Mind and Presentations: Part Two


After re-reading Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind, I realized his book’s six senses apply directly to presentations.  In order to deliver a successful message to an audience, you must consider the design of your visual presentation.  In Part One of this three-part series, we covered design.  Read Part One here.

Design is the first of Pink’s six senses.  Today, we’ll focus on the importance of story and how you must weave stories into your presentation content; the symphony of the parts of the presentation to make a synthesized whole; and the empathy for your audience in putting their needs first.  Pink’s final two senses are meaning and play, which we will discuss in Part Three.

The experts agree: story is an essential part of any presentation.  Pink explains that stories are the way we remember, so use story in your presentations if you want audiences to remember your speech.  Nancy Duarte says stories are meaningful and engaging for audiences.  She emphasizes that even in informative presentations, story should be used to connect (Source).  In Made to Stick, the Heath brothers emphasize story as one of the six qualities of “sticky” ideas… ideas that stick in our minds and remain with us (Source).  Garr Reynolds says we can look to entertainers and comedians like Bill Cosby for lessons on telling stories in our own presentations (Source).  All of the major gurus of modern public speaking and presentation agree that story is important, but how do you actually use story in your speeches?

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Tell a story right at the beginning of your presentation to hook your audience.  Garr Reynolds calls an effective introduction the “P.U.N.C.H.” (Source).   Weave story throughout your entire presentation.  Duarte suggests incorporating stories into your presentations “like layers of a cake” (Source).  Mix a little story with a little informative content to ensure audiences remember more of your speech.

You can also use a visual story to reinforce your verbal message (your content).  Create slides that are actually visual instead of following the traditional and terrible death-by-bulletpoint method.

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Dan Pink describes symphony as putting together all of the pieces to form a unified whole.  You have to put together all of the pieces for your audience… You must not only tell your audience your thesis (your argument), but also provide support for that thesis with supporting points.  But your job doesn’t end there.  To create symphony, you must actually explain how each of your supporting points forms a whole, cohesive argument.  Never stop explaining.  The only way an audience can see the big picture is if you break down your argument into pieces and then put the pieces back together.

How?  First, symphony is created by using a structure that works for your audience.  Using a traditional introduction, body, and conclusion structure is familiar for your audience, so they can focus on digesting your content instead of worrying about organizing your ideas AND digesting your content.

Flow is extremely important when it comes to symphony.  Pink suggests that relationships are key to symphony, so it is your job as a presenter to show those relationships in a clear, cohesive fashion.  Transition well from introduction to body; from body point to body point; and from body to conclusion.  Using transitions helps your presentation flow, and flow helps your audience see the bigger picture.

Again, symphony also relates to your visual presentation.  For example, Pink uses the FedEx logo in Chapter 6 on Symphony to explain the key to effective visuals: cohesive relationships.  Your visual presentation must make effective use of relationships: light and dark; positive space and negative space; signal and noise; and many others.  Read Nancy Duarte’s slide:ology and Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen to truly understand the importance of relationships in visual presentation and why effective relationships create symphony for your PowerPoint or Keynote.

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Empathy, especially defined by A Whole New Mind, relates to audience-centered presentations.  If you are an empathetic presenter, you put your audience first.  Because of this technique, you present stronger speeches because you follow Nancy Duarte’s golden rule: Never deliver a presentation you wouldn’t want to sit through yourself.

Audience-centered presenting relates to all three legs of the presentation stool.  Let’s talk first about content.  An empathetic presenter would never deliver boring content because he understands what his audience needs to be engaged.  An empathetic presenter uses ethos, pathos, and logos effectively to create a well-rounded message.  An empathetic presenter uses story to make his speech more memorable.  An empathetic presenter also knows that the key to effective content always comes back to audience analysis.

Moving onto the second leg of the presentation stool, empathetic presenters have strong emotional IQs in order to deliver successful speeches.  A great way to start learning about empathetic, audience-centered delivery is to immediately read The Naked Presenter by Garr Reynolds.  It is a must-own for anyone who has to give a speech.  Empathetic delivery is about mirror neurons and physically mirroring for your audience the response you want them to have.  If your passionate nonverbal communication matches the quality of exciting, audience-centered content, you’re being an empathetic presenter.

Lastly, please remember to empathize with your audience when creating visual presentation.  Don’t treat your audience as if they are stupid.  They can read.  If you create slides full of text on bullet points, they’re going to read that text ahead of you.  If you’re slowly catching up, reading each bullet word-for-word, your audience is going to hate you, and they’re going to wish you’d sit down and stop wasting their time.  Empathy is important when it comes to visual presentation, and it is your job as a presenter to meet the various learning styles of your audience.  99% of us are visual, so replace all of that text with an impacting image.  Learn more about creating strong visual presentations here.

Inspiration: Joan Halifax on Compassion


In this inspirational TEDWomen Talk, Joan Halifax discusses the importance of compassion.  Her experiences with the sick and dying throughout her life shape her views on empathy.  Her 40 years of work experience in healthcare and on death row help her articulate the qualities of compassion as well as its enemies.


In his book Westward Dharma, Professor Christopher Queen says of Halifax, “In a culture where death is an enemy to be ignored, denied, and hidden away, Joan physically touches the dying. She holds them, listens to them, comforts them, calms them, and eases their suffering by any means possible. She shares their thoughts and fears; she feels their last shuddering breaths, holding them in her arms” (Source).  What we could all learn from someone like this…