Nancy Duarte is author of “Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences” and CEO of Duarte Design in Silicon Valley.

A successful presentation can persuade an audience to change their behavior and take action — but presenters must clearly state exactly what they want their audience to do. Anticipating the audience’s needs is one of the first steps in presentation creation. Speakers can elicit behavior changes by tuning into their audience and crafting a message specifically for them. The personal appeal motivates the audience to act. The journey of presentation development begins where it ends: with the audience.

After immersing myself in all kinds of speeches –gallows speeches, patriotic calls to arms, keynote addresses — I discovered that almost all speeches request one of four outcomes. Whether a presentation is political, corporate or academic, the audience has just four roles to fulfill once the speech is over: doers, suppliers, influencers and innovators.

  1. Doers instigate activities. They are worker bees that take on physical tasks, as well as recruit and motivate other Doers to help them. These Doers can be asked to assemble, gather, decide, respond or try something.
  2. Suppliers get resources. These audience members have finances, staff or materials to advance your message. The Supplier can be asked to acquire, fund, support or provide resources.
  3. Influencers change perceptions. Consider these people thought leaders who can sway individuals and groups, motivating others to join your cause. The Influencer can be asked to adopt, promote, activate or empower.
  4. Innovators generate ideas. These people come up with new ways to modify and spread your message. They bring their brains to the table to create strategies, perspectives and products. The Innovator can be asked to create, invent, pioneer or discover.

Because every temperament is different, every audience member will have a natural preference for one type over the others. Providing each temperament with at least one action means everyone comes away from the presentation with an action they’re comfortable performing.

Be sure to identify actions that are simple, straightforward and easily executed. The audience should be able to connect their actions with a positive outcome for themselves or the greater good. When audience members see how they can help, momentum builds to quicker results.

Resist the urge to conclude with a dramatic call to action, because ending with a to-do list is not inspirational. Instead, connect the actions to positive results and paint a vivid picture of how the world will be a better place once these actions are accomplished.

Image credit: Roydee, via iStockPhoto

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9 responses to “4 ways to put your audience to work”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by GameChangers2010, Ken Potalivo. Ken Potalivo said: 4 ways to put your audience to work – Nancy Duarte is author of "Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Aud… […]

  2. Irene Kelly says:

    I agree in principle … in an audience comprised of all four types, do you name/identify them to offer possble actions? Or does the offer of a variety of actions speak to those present … they choose the?

  3. Audiences of more than one other person typically comprise multiple learning styles as well as multiple "role fulfillers" (for lack of a more technical term for the concept presented in this article/post). I agree with Ms. Duarte about beginning with the audience in mind (to paraphrase a Covey maxim). When I develop a presentation or facilitate a program for a large audience where a primary role is difficult to determine, I do my best – and recommend to others – to integrate strategies throughout the session that "reach" multiple styles and multiple roles. In addition, the concluding statement might be something along the line of, "I ask you to take the following four actions when you return to [your life]: 1 = a 'doer' action. 2 = a 'get resource' action. 3 = a 'help change perceptions' action. 4 = an 'add new approach/ideas' action." While this is a slight exaggeration (cumbersome), and ideally the call to action is most effective when focused on one strategy, at times I find I need to provide multiple "calls" so that everyone in the audience can identify at least one upon which they can act.

  4. claudiawjohnson says:

    Thanks for the tips. I know that our brains tend to click on these titles: 4 Ways to… 3 Things That…. Now, you've inspired me to use it in my presentation topic tomorrow! I'll include an action for each of these 4 types. Thanks for the fresh idea!

    Claudia Johnson

  5. Paul Horn says:

    Useful insights, but let's not be too quick to dismiss a "dramatic call to action" as a way to conclude a presentation or speech merely by equating it with a "to do list" (which, by definition, sounds pretty boring). That's a little specious.

  6. Nancy Duarte says:

    Sometimes one call to action works and sometimes you need to appeal to each type of action people take. It's amazing to me how many folks in an audience can't "see" the most obvious next step. I came up with this list after watching hundreds of presentations and reading a couple hundred speeches. It's a master list of the types of calls to action that can be used interchangeably depending on audience. When I wrote Resonate, this is where I'd started. I wanted to write "The Five Master Story Plots in Business". To start, I wanted to figure out the 4 types of outcomes from presentations. Tons of research and hours later, I re-directed the thesis of Resonate but still LOVE the findings in the Call to Actions above (probably because it was more work than it looks lie).

    Thanks for the comments!

  7. As author of twenty books and a national conference speaker for 20 years, I found this a great reminder. Many years ago I attended a conference focused on right/left brain principles demonstrating how to use charts, handouts, statistics, images, etc. in speaking. Creating presentation elements that appeal to both the "fact/ mind oriented" individuals as well as "concept/ emotional oriented" listeners can motivate both to action. These principles prove extremely helpful as I prepare a message intended to reach every member of the audience in a learning style to which they both can respond most positively. Thanks for this brush up.
    Linda McGinn Waterman <a href="” target=”_blank”>

  8. I strongly believe that every presentation should have one objective, and only one objective in the mind.

    If you try to be different things to different people, or if you try to include calls to actions to all four categories that you specify here, I am afraid you might end making a spaghetti of the message.

    One approach could be to break down the presentation in different parts, and then have call to action for each segment from those different parts. It also depends on how long the presentation is. For this strategy to work, the presentation would have to be really long.