Raining On Your Presentation Parade: Facts Do Not Persuade

It felt like a scene from Groundhog Day. I was stuck in a time warp loop.

Image by Patrick Hoesly.

Presenter after presenter after presenter started with the same phrase, “I have no financial conflict of interest to disclose.”

Then each one launched into a diatribe of data, diagrams, facts and research. Dark, boring PowerPoint slides flashed before my eyes. Some were unreadable. Most were forgettable.

Every six minutes, up to fifteen times per ninety-minutes, a new presenter stepped up to the podium and started a dissertation. These homilies blended together to create a murky, thick fog in my mind. Attendees’ eyes glazed over. My eyes grew heavy.

During the entire day, one could hear up to 75 speeches. During four days, attendees could hear more than 300 presenters. Most of these treatises lacked depth, humanness and emotional appeal. Few connected with the audience. Fewer yet persuaded anyone to do something different. Most fell on deaf ears and lifeless bodies.

This was the scene of a medical conference.

At least the presentation parade delivered CMEs to attendees.

Facts Rarely Persuade

These presenters had piles of facts and data. Yet, rarely did their information connect with the audience. They lacked an emotional element.

These data dumps were just that: dumps of statistics and figures in the landfill of our minds. Every six minutes more data covered the previous information. This information pile decayed and disappeared as quickly as it started. It was forgotten, overlooked, disregarded.

Information by itself does not change anything. Facts and figures do not matter unless someone changes their beliefs and decides to apply it. Facts do not even create awareness unless the hearer is open to change.

The problem is this: no spreadsheet, no bibliography and no list of resources is sufficient proof to someone who chooses not to believe. The skeptic will always find a reason, even if it’s one the rest of us don’t think is a good one. Relying too much on proof distracts you from the real mission–which is emotional connection. ~ Seth Godin

The Kitchen Sink Coupled With Emotional Connections May Persuade

Being convinced with logic and believing with personal conviction are different. Many audiences may agree with a presenter’s reasoning and still not respond to their call.

Factual presentations help inform, prove and justify. They move an audience from ignorant to informed. But just because one is informed does not mean that the information has meaning or will be applied.

People rarely act by logic alone. To persuade, a presenter must provide more than facts. A presenter needs to provide an emotional connection. A good presenter provides a balance of credibility, content and emotional connection that stirs the soul. The emotional appeal coupled with facts may create a response.

The real goal of most presentations is to persuade. To move an audience from indifference to interest. From awareness to action. To change and do things differently.

Presenting emotional appeal was tough for these analytical doctors. Few used stories to show the humanness of their research. Few expressed how to create a better future for patients by applying their data. Few communicated how their information would benefit others.

What is the goal of your conference education? Who are some great famous presenters that connect with their audiences, provide humanness through stories and sprinkle their speeches with facts, figures and science?

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