When you make a presentation, chances are you have three goals in mind:
- You want to persuade people to share your point of view.
- You want to give information about something new or a new perspective on something old.
- You want to inspire.
If you had to give up two of the three, keep “inspire” as a primary goal. If your audience is inspired after hearing your presentation, they will be persuaded to share your point of view and embrace the information you have shared with them.
Oxford Dictionary defines “inspire” as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
Inspiration is a process. It is not a split second of insight that hits out of the blue. It is not a life-change that is evoked after hearing just one inspirational story. It is not a eureka moment that comes from hearing or reading a sprinkling of a random series of inspirational quotations throughout a PowerPoint. It is not born of the slam-duck conclusion of a presentation with its punchy call to action.
But all of those things are part of the process of inspiring people. When you get it right, it is an amazing feeling. People approach you and tell you their life has been forever changed in the minutes you were delivering your address.
There is no time limit on inspiration. Five years after that address, you may encounter someone who tells you their life took a whole new direction after they heard your speech a long time ago.
How do you inspire people?
The challenge in giving inspirational advice for great presentations is that what inspires people is not a one-size-fits-all project.
Some people are inspired by words, others by music or art. Some are inspired by a walk alone with nature while others feel inspired in the middle of New York City’s Times Square.
The scent of a flower can trigger inspiration, while the hint of danger or risk-taking inspires another. Some need calmness and a sense of time, while others need a pending deadline to really get inspired.
So how is a speaker to inspire?
Start with good stories and well-research information that are relevant to your point as your foundation and then bring into play as many common triggers to inspiration as you can summon.
Focus on the audience, not yourself
One common theme all of the greatest inspirational presentations have is that the focus is on the listener, not the speaker. You may tell the inspirational story of your life, but only in terms of how it relates to their life. You can quote great inspirational messages, but only if they are general enough to be translated to the careers of those sitting before you.
For example, look at the extremely simple but inspirational PowerPoint/video “Life is Like a Cup of Coffee” here.
This video does not introduce the author in any context. It tells a simple story and yet it carries a powerful message.
Do Your Research to Create a Powerful Message
Inspiration is also found in powerful messages that reveal new and shocking information to your audience or present known information from a different and more revealing perspective.
A good example of that is the presentation “Smoke, A Convenient Truth” which won Slideshare’s “World’s Best Presentation Contest.” Created by Empowered Presentations, it is factual and simultaneously extremely impactful.
You can pull from the inspiration of others
The late Steve Jobs reminded people that it’s okay to draw your inspiration from other people’s ideas as long as you make it uniquely yours in the end.
In an interview that was part of the PBS documentary Triumph of the Nerds, Jobs said “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” However, he clarified that he wanted to have his team be aware of the best things that people before them had done and then incorporate these great ideas into something of their own.
So it’s okay to grab the book of inspirational quotes and draw from it when you want your idea supported.
If you want to inspire persistence to reach the goal, quote Thomas Edison’s “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
If you want to inspire hope and optimism in your audience, quote Helen Keller’s “Keep your face to the sunshine and you will not see the shadows.”
Or if you want to inspire people to make contributions to a cause bigger than themselves in terms that will fit their personal lifestyle, you can rely on Edith Wharton’s “There are two ways of spreading light. To be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
These quotations, when not over-used, can simply and effectively provide a memorable touch to your presentation.
Reflect your own inspirational qualities
To inspire others with your presentation, it helps to be inspiring yourself.
The qualities that inspire are sincerity and authenticity, emotional strength, evidence of hope, enthusiasm, caring and relevance.
Add to that the ability to make people feel good about themselves.
For example, look at how this presentation “The Most Inspirational PowerPoint Ever Created” empowers and inspires the audience:
Leaving your audience feeling that they can do the things they have become inspired to do is an extremely powerful way to close your presentation.
Include inspirational stories
People relate to stories and remember them. When they are inspired by a story, it finds its way to their hearts and they repeat it to others as a way to explain their motivation.
If you have good stories and are a good storyteller, use your own stories. People appreciate originality.
But if you don’t, but want to make a certain point, check online for videos that can tell the story for your audience, leaving you free to summarize the key points as they relate to your point afterwards.
Look at the beautiful story “To a Child Love is Spelled T-I-M-E” for example:
This is just one example of dozens of stunning videos available on line that illustrate a wide variety of different values and life moments.
Be sure when you show a video of an inspirational story to draw a link to your point and the video and end with a solid call to action.