The First Step in Creating Persuasive Presentations: Mind Mapping

By Mike Parkinson

The presentation process I teach is called U.S.E. — Understand, Summarize and Explain. Looking at the first step (Understand) there are three core elements: audience,  need, and requirements. To be persuasive, our presentations must resonate with the audience. To do so, we want to empathize with them.

If the audience waved a magic wand, what would be the perfect outcome for them? A presenter that understands the audience has an advantage. The more we know about the audience, the more persuasive our presentations.

Audience understanding and insight is usually captured in an ad hoc manner, if at all. Early in the process, the secret is to determine what matters most. To do this, I use a special mind map exercise I call the HFB Mind Map. This mind map helps me understand the audience’s:

1. Hopes: What do they want after the presentation? What is the best-case outcome?

2. Fears: What keeps them up at night? What will make them worry?

3. Biases: What types of solutions, messages, communication styles do they  prefer? What do they dislike?

Use the following steps to create a HFP Mind Map:

• Step one: In the center of a piece of paper, large white board, or chalkboard,  write hopes, fears, and biases.

• Step two: Ask yourself (or your team, if this is a group effort) to name specific hopes, fears, and biases. Use branches to connect each element to its respective sources.

• Step three: Dissect each of those hopes, fears, and biases. Continue to do so until you can no longer break down the elements into their key contributors. The intent is to uncover and define how the audience describes its hopes, fears, and biases. These three elements are key motivators to human change and choice.

The following is an example of a HFB Mind Map:

In my experience, you will jump from one component (hopes, fears, biases) to the next when making the HFB Mind Map. It is unlikely you will complete one of the three components without populating another.

In addition, the HFB Mind Map exercise can uncover key messages. For example, if you see a reoccurrence of a resonating idea (e.g., save money), it is likely to be a dominant motivator for the audience and should be woven into your presentation.

Using the HFB Mind Map approach speeds development and helps eliminate revisions because you (plus other contributors and your client, when applicable) empathize with the audience. You are more likely to share what the audience needs to understand to take the next step.

About the Author:

Mike Parkinson is an internationally-recognized visual communications guru and presentation expert, professional trainer, and award-winning author. He is a partner at 24 Hour Company, which specializes in proposals and presentations. His Billion Dollar Graphics website and Get My Graphic website share best practices and helpful tools.

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