I think that most presentations can be classified as persuasive or informative.These two presentation types can cover quite a range — more entertaining or less, informal or keynote,for example.
What is a persuasive presentation?
Some presentations are for the purpose of selling a product or service.
Other presentations try to sell an idea. For example, maybe you want approval for a proposal. You might want to persuade people to contribute to a cause.
The success of a persuasive presentation is determined by how many people make a purchase or how many people contribute to the cause. For a proposal, success is determined by whether or not you get the approval you need.
What is an informative presentation?
Many informative presentations are delivered for training or education. There may be a small element of persuasion at the beginning of an educational lecture, for example, as the teacher tries to persuade students that the topic is worth learning about. But mostly the teacher wants the students to understand and remember the content.
An informative presentation may be followed by a test or exercise and the success of the presentation may be determined by how well the students do on the test or exercise.
Another type of informative presentation is the result of research, such as a presentation at a scientific conference or a market research presentation meant to provide the information a company needs to make a business decision. The success of the presentation would be determined by the outcome of the decision.
What do persuasive and informative presentations have in common?
There are many characteristics that both types of presentations share:
- Your goal is to be clear so that your audience understands and remembers what you say
- Your material should be customized for your specific audience
- You should engage your audience with questions and answers and other interactive approaches
How are persuasive and informative presentations different?
But there are differences, too. I remember listening to a recording of a presentation given by a research scientist at a press conference before a 2009 Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. He wanted the reporters to put a sentence or two about the research on the Transcendental Meditation technique in their articles. (The concert was a benefit to raise funds to teach inner-city children this stress-reducing technique).
Instead, he gave an informative presentation, which was overly technical and not helpful to the reporters, many of which covered popular culture. (Paul and Ringo singing together on the same stage!)
This highlights that the main difference is obviously the different goal–to persuade or to inform. But how do you change your presentation to match your goal?
Here are my thoughts:
- Problem-solution: Most persuasive presentations highlight the problem and then offer a solution. People won’t act unless you can provide a solution to a problem they have. Informative presentations use this concept less often, although a trainer could be training people to overcome a problem such as poor customer service or even poor sales.
- Benefits: Similarly, in a persuasive presentation, you need to outline the benefits of the solution, what the audience will gain from buying, contributing, or approving. In an informative presentation, you may talk about the importance of the information, but this aspect is a much smaller part of the whole presentation.
- Emotion: Studies have shown that people can’t make a decision without feeling good about it and for that they need to tap into their emotions. Therefore, the presenter needs to elicit an emotional response. Informative presentations use emotion much less.
- Trust: In order to commit, the audience must trust the presenter and feel comfortable that others have taken the same route. Testimonials, case studies, the presenter’s previous successes, and stories all contribute to trust and “social proof.” Of course, it’s good that an audience trust an informative presenter, but the emphasis is more on the content.
- Action step: For a persuasive presentation, there must be a call to action at the end — to buy, contribute, or approve. However an informative presentation can also suggest that people act — “put what you’ve learned into practice.”
How do you think persuasive and informative presentations are different?
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This is something I’ve been thinkign about a lot. To me, the informational presentation is the least effective type of presentation, because the speaker is taking no responsibility for the outcome. It’s a data dump.
The best speakers I know always have a plan for what the audience will DO with the information. That’s the message they are selling. They not only provide the information, but they persuade the audience to take a specific next step with the information.
Good trainers try very hard to avoid data dump. If you read training-related magazines and articles, you’ll see that this is true. Every 15-20 minutes, they break for Q&A or an exercise. There are lots of opportunities for people to practice using the information. Then these trainers follow up a week or two later with more tips and information — this is especially true of in-house trainers, who are judged by how much their trainees improve at the tasks they are learning. As I mentioned, there’s persuasion in the sense of convincing people that the information is important, but it’s… Read more »
I really liked this part!
Emotion: Studies have shown that people can’t make a decision without feeling good about it and for that they need to tap into their emotions. Therefore, the presenter needs to elicit an emotional response. Informative presentations use emotion much less.
A lot of people seem to forget that most decisions come from a feeling and not from a rational thought
Thanks for sharing
Glad you liked it! I’ve been re-reading a book by Jonah Lehrer called How We Decide and he goes deeply into the role of emotion for decision making. Did you see my webinar on persuasive presentations? It’s at https://ellenfinkelstein.webinarninja.co/my/wnwebinarlist/index?webinar_id=28769. It’s set up as a recorded webinar and you can set yourself any time to watch it at your convenience.
Nice article. Thanks for sharing.
I’ve been working with this difference for quite awhile. I work in faculty development and university faculty present both types. Persuasive (selling an idea and/or attitude change) are best done using powerful images/audio/video and very little text. Charismatic presentation style helps and audience involvement can be minimal.
Informational presentations are different, they require attention, relevance, repetition and reflection. The student must be engaged in the learning either physically (ex. writing answers) or mentally (ex.answering questions).
I agree with what you’re saying, but I’m curious to know what types of persuasive presentations faculty do that are persuasive. Can you give me an example?
Profs often give persuasive talks around ideology. I recently watched sessions on “Why physicians should be advocates for patients”, another on being a family doctor, another on ethics and professionalism.
Hi, I sometimes do technical presentations on development technique called test-driven development and these presentations must be both persuasive (since the technique requires changing some basic habits of work and no one does that when not convinced – so it’s an alternative to what’s already being done) and informative (because participants must leave the training with some knowledge as how to proceed further). As the persuasive part goes, it’s about creating a motivation and, as you pointed out – emotion, something that pushes participants forward. It’s like making someone believe that taking a forest night-trip is a good idea and… Read more »
To me, it’s most helpful if we view all presentations as being persuasive, and with a call to action (often implied). I agree with Nancy Duarte, who wrote “The only reason we’re presenting is to persuade.” In the case of talks at an academic conference, I’d say the aim is to persuade the audience that the research being described is valid and important, and that the speaker is worth hearing and “following”. (Mind you, most speakers act like that’s the opposite of the aim!) The (implied) call to action is ideally to tell other people about the talk, or at… Read more »
thanks alot i like the notes and they have been useful to me. above all they are easy to understand since they have real time examples.
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