top of page

Hacking Presentations

How to use classic persuasion and influence techniques to establish a 'reason to listen' in under two minutes.

Sales presentations can be predictable and off-putting to your audience, but these simple steps can turn any production into a conversation your audience will want to hear. Combining two classic methods of persuasion and influence can make your presentations better – quickly.

Classic Greek Model of Persuasion + How to Win Friends and Influence People

People often cut corners and make shortcuts around these two proven methodologies to 'cut to the chase' or 'get to the good stuff.' It sounds logical, but it does a disservice to the presenter because they haven't effectively 'set the table.' They haven't established the credibility, empathy, and common ground necessary for a genuine conversation. Instead, they end up delivering a sales presentation, and that violates a widely known but often forgotten tenant of sales: "people hate to be sold, but they love to buy."

We have combined these two methodologies in a way that allows the presenter to reap all their rewards but do it in less than two minutes.

Ethos, Pathos, Logos

This classic Greek model of persuasion has been around for thousands of years because it works. In short, you're establishing character and credibility (ethos), connecting to an emotional reason or purpose (pathos), and giving them the logical rationale of why your solution is better (logos).

How to win friends and influence people

Dale Carnegie's ten points for being a good conversationalist are often acknowledged but just as often overlooked. In short, these points help the listener feel essential and respected, which lowers the defensive barriers they usually have when listening to a sales presentation. This is not manipulation; this is merely acknowledging in no uncertain terms that this is a joint effort, a partnership with a common purpose, goal, or objective. You're both on the same side and trying to achieve a common purpose, but this can't just be assumed; it needs to be highlighted.

These two structures are provided at the end of this article, but for the sake of brevity, let's cut to the chase and show how these methodologies can be combined and simplified for integrating these techniques quickly and then (and only then) getting to why they should choose your solution.

Parker Madison's 8 Steps for Successful Sales Presentations

  1. Begin on Common Ground - Acknowledging the Problem at Hand

  2. Plant the Seed of the Objective

  3. Confirm and Commend the Listeners' Role/Importance

  4. Establish the Clear and Obvious Purpose

  5. Demonstrate Confidence and Commitment to the Purpose

  6. Differentiate Your Ability to Better Serve the Purpose

  7. Reference the Purpose Often

  8. Remember–the Purpose is the Objective (not making the sale)

1. Begin on Common Ground:

When you establish common ground, you are, by definition, telling the audience something they already know, but they need to know that you know it too. This cannot be assumed. If you can illustrate this common ground (or the problem that must be solved) in a way they've never seen before, you have their attention. Done right, you've even made them smile. You've evened the playing field so that you are no longer selling them; you're speaking as peers that agree on something. Establishing common ground is not wasting time; it's setting the foundation for everything that comes next.

2. Plant the seed of the Objective:

Don't just state the objective; make it the solution to the problem. This plants the seed that your solution is the objective. You're not making your product or service the objective – only what it achieves. This is important because you're not selling them on you at this point, only on the solution or objective. You are still on common ground.

3. Confirm and Commend the Listeners' Role/Importance:

You cannot achieve your objective without the customer – that's why you are delivering the presentation. Acknowledge this and congratulate them on having the vision and foresight to see the end goal/the objective as a solution they are committed to achieving.

4. Establish the Clear and Obvious Purpose:

The objective/solution is different from the purpose. The purpose is the reason that makes the objective/solution necessary. It's how the solution helps serve the greater good/humanity. The purpose should make the solution real, tangible, and emotional. It should bring home the idea that the solution makes life better for the recipient, and by extension, everyone.

5. Demonstrate Confidence and Commitment to the purpose:

The purpose – how this helps real people/animals/the planet, or whoever - should be your ultimate goal. It's not about them using you or buying your product or service. You need to be committed to the purpose – even if that means they use a competitor. No company, desperate for business, would take this position of confidence. Let them know your goal is to show them why your solution achieves the purpose better, but remind them that you see the purpose, regardless of how it is achieved, as the ultimate goal.

6. Differentiate Your Ability to Better Serve the Purpose:

The rest of the presentation should demonstrate your unique ability to serve the purpose better than your competition. You know what this is. Until now, this has been your entire presentation. Now you can deliver it from a position of common ground, shared purpose, and confidence. The previous five steps shouldn't take more than two minutes. Still, they will set you up as a confident and caring company with the same goals, objectives, and purpose as the people who are now listening to you talk instead of enduring another sales presentation.

7. Reference the Purpose Often:

Throughout the rest of the presentation, you should refer back to the purpose as often as appropriate. Don't overdo it, but don't ever allow them to think this has wandered into a pitch. It should always be focused on achieving the purpose.

8. Remember–the Purpose is the Objective (not making the sale):

This isn't a step as much as something to keep in mind, especially in the presentation's Q&A portion. You are committed to the purpose, and you are confident your solution achieves the purpose better than the competition. Stay focused on the purpose, and if your product or service best fits the bill, you'll make the sale. Be confident, be strong, and be smart. This system has worked and has been proven to work for millenniums. Don't take shortcuts.


Visuals / Slides:

If you're giving a presentation, people should be focused on you, not the slide. One way to do this is to introduce ideas visually that need to be explained audibly. By having an interesting or provocative image on the screen that makes the listener wonder how it relates to achieving the purpose, you've captured their attention. You've created interest in hearing the explanation. If, on the other hand, your visual says everything, they can read it, interpret it, and then start thinking about other things like why they disagree with the information or start comparing it to your competition based on their interpretation. Your visuals should intrigue, not explain.


Sometimes people can understand abstract information better if it is presented visually. Find someone who does this well. Microsoft and Powerpoint have many tools, but people are better at determining the right way to make the graphics hit home far better than clip art can ever do.


Ethos / Pathos / Logos:

Ethos, or the ethical appeal, means to convince an audience of the author's credibility or character. Pathos, or the emotional appeal, means to persuade an audience by appealing to their emotions. Logos, or the appeal to logic, means to convince an audience by using logic or reason.

Ethos: Sense by Character

People do business with people they know, like, or trust. Your presentation should exude personality. Your audience should identify you as the person who represents a company that cares and is not merely in this for the money. Determining what that personality is and how the look and feel should be conveyed are the real keys behind successful presentations.

Pathos: Appeal by Emotion

Your audience comprises real people who make real choices based on emotional concerns – whether they will admit it or not. They want you to believe that they make rational decisions based on logic, but research shows that people let their emotions guide purchasing behavior more than 85% of the time–even in B2B sales. Smart presenters learn which emotions the audience associates with your product or service and then apply a healthy dose of empathy to the communication process.

Logos: Appeal by Logic

Facts, figures, features, and benefits have their place in marketing communications, but not until the character and purpose have been established. Logic should be used to close the deal, not open the door. Put the features, specs, and details after you've found common ground. Let these be the rationale to justify working with a company that has a common purpose.

1. Do Not Criticize, Condemn, or Complain: fluence People:

1. Do Not Criticize, Condemn or Complain:

Carnegie writes, "Any fool can criticize, condemn or complain- and most fools do." He continues on to say that it takes character and self-control to be forgiving; this discipline will pay significant dividends in your relationships with people.

2. Be Generous With Praise:

Carnegie uses Schwab as an example throughout the book to exemplify all of the tenets Carnegie preaches. Schwab used praise as the foundation of all of his relationships, "In my wide association in life, meeting with many and great people in various parts of the world," Schwab declared, "I have yet to find the person, however great or exalted in their station who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than they would ever do under a spirit of criticism."

3. Remember Their Name:

Remembering people's names when you meet them is difficult. You casually meet many people, so it's challenging, but if you can train yourself to remember people's names, it makes them feel special and important. Carnegie writes, "Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language."

4. Be Genuinely Interested In Other People:

Remembering a person's name, asking them questions that encourage them to talk about themselves, so you discover their interests and passions are what make people believe you like them, so they, in turn, like you. Carnegie writes, "You make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." If you break it down, you should listen 75% and only speak 25% of the time.

5. Know The Value Of Charm:

One thing people do not discuss much in the job search industry is that so much of getting an opportunity is not about talent, where you went to college, or who you know; it is people liking you. A good resume may get you in the door, but charm, social skills, and talent keep you there, and people will typically pick someone they enjoy being around over a candidate they don't enjoy being around as much but is more talented. Become someone people want to talk to, be genuinely interested in other people because it will enrich your life and open so many more doors than you ever thought possible.

6. Be Quick To Acknowledge Your Own Mistakes:

Nothing will make people less defensive and more agreeable than you being humble and reasonable enough to admit your own mistakes. Having strong and stable personal and professional relationships relies on taking responsibility for your actions, especially your mistakes. Nothing will help end tension or a disagreement more than a swift acknowledgment and apology on your part.

7. Don't Attempt To "Win" An Argument:

The best way to win any argument, Carnegie writes, is to avoid it. Even if you completely dismantle someone's opinion with objective facts, you won't be any closer to reaching an agreement than if you made personal arguments. Carnegie cited an old saying: "A man convinced against his will / Is of the same opinion still."

8. Begin On Common Ground:

If you are involved in a disagreement with someone, you start on common ground and ease your way into the difficult subjects. If you begin on polarizing ground, you'll never be able to recover and may lose ground with matters on which you agree.

9. Have Others Believe Your Conclusion Is Their Own:

People can not be forced to believe anything, and persuasive people understand the power of suggestion over demand. Learn to plant the seed, and instead of telling people they're wrong, find common ground and persuade them that what they want is your desired outcome (obviously without telling them that is the case).

10. Make People Feel Important:

Smiling, knowing people's names, praising people, making an effort to understand their interests, and chat about them make people feel important. That is the underlying point of all of the above principles. If you make people feel important, how you walk through the world will be an exponentially more pleasant and incredible experience.


bottom of page