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The Purpose of a Presentation: Inform, Persuade, Inspire or Entertain

Posted by Langevin Team on 6/2/11 5:45 AM
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“Nothing is as necessary for success as the single-minded pursuit of an objective. “ ~Fred Smith.

We know that in training our role is not just to “stand and deliver;” we need to have PAF (presentation, application, and feedback). However, on occasion, we are asked to just give a presentation. And, one of the biggest challenges we then face is to define the purpose of the presentation and determine how to reinforce this purpose.


To illustrate how to do this, I’ll walk you through an experience my daughter had:

Marie was excited; she had been asked to give a presentation. She had completed some preliminary work. She knew her audience, length of the presentation, place for the presentation, etc. Now she wanted to know how to structure the presentation. Between phone calls and emails, I was able to coach her through the process.


Her topic was on track and field, specifically the hurdles. Marie was selected because she ran the hurdles in high school and college. What she needed to do was determine the purpose of her presentation: did she want to inform, persuade, inspire, or entertain her audience? Once identified, she could then build her presentation accordingly. Put another way, Marie needed to define what she wanted the audience to think, feel, or do at the end of the presentation. Let’s take a closer look.


An informative presentation gives the audience information about the topic; this could be information that is interesting or useful. Marie could provide detailed information about the hurdles that would clear up any misconceptions, or take this as an opportunity to tell the audience that the hurdles are not as dangerous as they look. Here, she would provide the strongest pieces of information needed to get the audience to this mind set.


A persuasive presentation is an effort to change/influence the opinions, beliefs, or behaviors of the audience. For example, Marie’s presentation could be an effort to get the audience to try out for the hurdles or petition to have the hurdles as a track and field event at the high school level. Here she would present her most convincing arguments.


An inspirational presentation is an appeal to the feelings, emotions, values, and thoughts of your audience. Marie could use the quote, “No pain – no gain” as an example of how she ran with pulled muscles and back pain to achieve her track goals. Here, the emphasis is on the use of the most inspirational quotes, stories, or anecdotes.

An entertaining presentation is a presentation that is light hearted, casual and fun. The emphasis is catching and holding the attention of the audience. Humor, stories, or subtle irony could be the focus. Marie could share the time she fell over a hurdle and was more embarrassed that her father ran onto the field than she was with the fall.


Once Marie determined its purpose, she would continue to build the presentation. To inform, she would use the strongest pieces of information. To persuade, she would use her most convincing arguments. To inspire, she would use her most inspirational quotes, stories, or anecdotes. To entertain, she would use humor or engaging stories to involve the audience. And, of course, she would still need a great opening, closing, and delivery. But now she knew where to start.


What kinds of presentations have you been asked to deliver and what have you used to inform, persuade, inspire, or entertain your audience?


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Topics: presentation skills, influencing

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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