Truly: Is a Presentation Always An Act of Persuasion?
Prof. Kristan Wheaton, Associate Professor at the Mercyhurst College Department of Intelligence Studies, and owner of the Sources and Methods blog, is concerned about coming across as "selling":
I have followed your blog for some time and have found many of your insights to be truly helpful. This post, however, caused me to think of a very real problem that I have. I teach intelligence analysis. Analysts are often called on to give presentations. One of the fundamental rules of these presentations is that they not be attempts to persuade or to "sell" an analysis — facts, logic and estimative conclusions are expected to speak for themselves. That said, there are clearly elements of good presentation technique that simply help make the information accessible without coming across as an attempt to "sell" (using readable fonts comes to mind as an example). The goal, as I tell my students, is to effectively communicate the results of your analysis without coming across as trying to sell your analysis. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on this particular problem? Kris
I have heard this concern before–not surprising, since the majority of people who attend my workshop are analysts.
There is an important distinction to be made here. On the one hand, yes, you do have to "sell" your audience on the fact that the conclusions from your analysis are correct. This is especially true if they come with an opposing, (and hence, based on your analysis) false view. You owe it to them to help them accept your analysis–otherwise of what value is your analysis if it's ignored or rejected out of hand?
On the other hand–and this is your concern, I think, Kris–you do not in any way want to be usurping their decision-making power. There may be other factors of which you are not aware, and so you cannot say definitively that they should do x, just based on your analysis.
So go all out to persuade them that the results of your analysis are correct and worthy of consideration, but stop short of trying to tell them how to do their job.
I'm happy to continue these discussions if people find them helpful.