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October 19, 2016

Big meeting coming up? Here's a checklist for delivering a persuasive presentation.

Daily Briefing

    Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on Nov. 20, 2018.

    Dorie Clark, a teacher at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, shares her checklist in Harvard Business Review for structuring your next presentation to increase the odds that stakeholders will approve your ideas.

    By asking yourself six questions, Clark says, you can craft a presentation that "defuses potential objections upfront" and ups the odds of getting a "yes."

    What problem are you solving? Clark cautions speakers to remember that outsiders to an organization—or even high-level insiders—may not be familiar with the details of a project. If a speaker doesn't provide context and explain why the project matters at the outset, the audience can quickly lose interest.

    Why now? The audience may understand that a project is relevant, but they might not understand why it's relevant now.  Without a sense of urgency, Clark says your audience will be inclined to prioritize other matters or take a "wait and see" approach. Her advice: Make sure you've conveyed the cost of not acting.

    Is the idea vetted? Speakers should highlight evidence that supports their competence on the topic and demonstrates the seriousness with which they've pursued the proposed solution, Clark writes.

    Is the structure simple enough to follow? Clark says it's easy to forget that your audience doesn't always know what you know about a given topic. Speakers should break down their proposals into numbered steps or phases to make them easier to understand, Clark says.

    Have you told a story? While some might consider it "frivolous" to use a story in a presentation, speakers put themselves "at a significant disadvantage" by choosing not to pair their data with a specific example that can help the audience grasp the topic at hand, Clark says.

    Is there a call to action? According to Clark, "The final place most professionals go wrong in their presentations is failing to present a clear call to action at the end." Speakers may see the next step as obvious, but that's not always clear to those who haven't heard the pitch before (Clark, Harvard Business Review, 10/11). 

    The science—and strategy—behind having a 'great meeting'

    There are about 11 million formal meetings in the United States every day—and more than half of them may be unproductive. Why? Because many meetings are inefficiently run. They don't set or achieve clear goals. And we hold them out of habit.

    Drawing on best practices—as well as lessons from across our own organization—we've created this useful infographic to guide if you really need a meeting (and if so, how to maximize everyone's time).

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