Last Monday, I spoke to the Boca Raton Junior League. The topic was “From Death by PowerPoint to Life by PowerPoint: Speaking to Inspire.”
I started with the story of how I was strongly criticized by a reader of a magazine for a slide I had used as a figure in an article I wrote and how much that hurt. It led to a journey to figure out how to design clear, powerful slides—not initially easy for me, since I wasn’t a designer.
You’ll see in a minute why that story was important for the topic.
Isn’t inspiration only for non-profits and houses of worship?
NO! I believe that you can add some inspiration to almost any presentation. Let’s take something very business-like—a quarterly sales report. Are sales up? You can congratulate the people who made it happen and give a vision of the implications for the next year.
Are sales down? If possible, you can talk about plans to turn things around. Maybe there are reasons to believe that the trend is temporary. Or you can inspire people to make the necessary changes to increase sales.
What’s the difference between inspiration and persuasion?
During the workshop, we discussed the difference between inspiration and persuasion. They’re close, but inspiration focuses on being uplifting and evoking positive emotion.
But remember that both inspirational and persuasive presentations usually have a call to action. For a persuasive talk, the desired action might be a purchase or approval. For an inspirational talk, the desired action might be to donate money or time.
What is the structure of an inspirational speech?
In the workshop, I provided the attendees with a structure for an inspirational speech. It has the arc of a story, with a beginning, middle and end.
- Dream! (Think of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.) You might think of a goal for a business or how to help the homeless or improve the lives of children. One of the attendees chose a dream of more people adopting dogs from shelters instead of buying them. What do YOU want to change?
- What is the NOW? Why is change necessary? Here you define the problem. It could be poor sales results or homelessnesss or hungry children.
- What steps are necessary to bring about desired change? Here you lay out the path to the solution.
- What are the obstacles? If there weren’t obstacles, you probably wouldn’t need to give your speech. If you don’t acknowledge the obstacles, people will get disillusioned during the process of change.
- What are some ways to overcome the obstacles? Here you define the steps to create the change you envision.
- Imagine life when the goal is obtained. This is the uplifting vision you dreamed about.
As you can see, an inspirational speech is like a journey.
In the workshop, each attendee chose a problem and wrote out 2-3 sentences for each of the 6 steps. By the end, they had the structure for their inspirational presentation.
The importance of stories is why I started with my own story of being mortified at the criticism of my slide. That experience led to a journey which culminated in me becoming a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (one of 13 in the United States at this writing) and having a career helping presenters create clear, powerful and persuasive slides.
The power of images to inspire
I talked about the importance of using powerful, meaningful images to inspire the audience. It’s hard to inspire with slides consisting of text. That’s Death by PowerPoint.
Of course, many inspirational speeches use no slides at all. Imagine Martin Luther King using slides! When you don’t use slides, you have to paint pictures with your words. In fact, the “I Have a Dream” speech is full of visual imagery. Read these 4 beautiful phrases:
America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.
Using slides does’t mean that you remove visual imagery from your words, but you can help your audience visualize what you’re saying with images.
What do you want to inspire people to do?
What is your vision? What do you want to change? Share your topic in the comments. And please use the share buttons below to share this post widely so other speakers will be inspired to inspire.
Book a Speak to Inspire workshop!
Would you like me to do a Speak to Inspire workshop for your organization? Attendees will learn both structure and slide design so that they’re equipped to create their own inspirational talks. Contact me here.