Seven keys to compelling presentations.

We all present, whether in meetings, explanations, or conversations. Each time we present, we’re wielding influence. Here are seven ways to strengthen your influence.

1. Know your stuff. The meaning, reasons, details, background, challenges, exceptions, and weaknesses. You don’t have to share it all, but you should know it. Uncertainty voids authority, and you can’t slake interest without substance. John Boyd, the influential military theorist, prevailed in presentations because he did his homework, didn’t sling half-baked ideas, and never used imaginary statistics. When you know your stuff, no one can discredit your argument.

2. Speak truth. There’s no point to presenting if you can’t be trusted. When you tell the truth, people respect you, even if they disagree. People who disagree can work together. People who don’t trust each other can’t.

3. Tell the story. We live, dream, and relate in story. We aspire, create, and prevail through story. We perceive, grieve, loathe, and love by story. Story is the universal language. It defines and divides us, motivates and sustains us. Seth Godin, marketing guru, observes about story, “People like us do things like this. There is no more powerful tribal marketing connection than this.”

4. Develop a style that serves your audience. Style speaks more loudly than words. Are you selling? Spinning? Posturing? Hiding? Fast-talking? Boring? Listeners don’t mind conviction, persuasion, emotion, velocity, or gentle pacing — as long as you’re speaking to them and serving their interests. Present as if to those you love.

5. Don’t wing it. Most people are smarter than you realize. The more prepared you are, the more respect you convey. Nearly everyone will endure respect. Few will abide condescension.

6. Feature the big news. Signal your bold strokes. Preparing the stage is fine, but don’t build the theater before platforming your point. The longer you wait, the smaller your audience.

7. Believe it. Even if you’re presenting for the thousandth time, delivering bad news, or running on no sleep, remember why you’re doing this. How it makes things better. That your message is the very thing someone needs. This will keep you alive in the process, and life is contagious.

Seven Things I’ve Learned About Persuasive Writing

(1) Keep it personal. This is a conversation, not an announcement.

(2) Show respect. Assume a reader more intelligent than yourself.

(3) Be honest. Never resort to hype.

(4) Make your point. Why does this matter?

(5) Allow yourself to feel. Speak to the mind and heart. Identify with your reader.

(6) Write visually. Evoke images.

(7) Keep it lean. Say more by writing less.

Seven Things I’ve Learned About Sermons

(1) Interest and time are inversely proportional. The greater my interest, the shorter the sermon.

(2) Interest and investment are directly proportional. The more you put in, the more I take out.

(3) If it’s where I live, my attention is yours to lose.

(4) The more you care about me, the more I’ll hear.

(5) If I should care but don’t, pursue me. Work at opening my eyes. Draw me in.

(6) Anyone can read a passage and restate it in his own words. (See #2.)

(7) It’s better when God is involved. Ask Him what I need to hear, ask Him how to say it, and ask Him for my attention. I don’t want to miss a word if God is behind it.