How To Persuade the Audience To Act by Maurizio La Cava

In our Present to Succeed Lessons Learned article series, we include all of the fascinating, valuable, and wow moments from the sessions from our debut 2021 conference. Our goal is to share with you the highlights and help you improve your presentation craft every day.

Maurizio is a presentation strategist, public speaker, and associate professor that teaches Presentation and Pitching Strategies. He is the CEO and co-founder of MLC Presentation Design Consulting, Startup Pitch Strategist at Polihub, and the author of the books “Lean Presentation Design” and “Startup Pitch Presentation”.

Maurizio also works with startups to help with their investor pitches and was one of the speakers at the Present to Succeed Conference 2021 in our Story track.

In his session called “How To Pitch a Business Idea and Persuade the Audience To Act”, he shared an immense amount of knowledge and insight on how to structure your presentation storytelling for success for any business presentation or startup deck.

We don’t really give presentations for pleasure. We give presentations for business, to get your message across, or to encourage your audience to do something they wouldn’t have done otherwise. There are informative presentations too, but what we are talking about here are persuasive presentations

We can’t afford to fail when we pitch our ideas and doing so in a business setting. The cost of failure might not be affordable. And that is why we put so much work into presentations.

Maurizio explained here that sometimes we cannot afford to fail a presentation, at all, as the cost of it could be too high for us.

The three pillars of any presentation

Each presentation, according to Maurizio, is built on three pillars: public speaking, visual content, and communication flow.

The ability to not panic is a foundation of public speaking, and it improves with practice and real-life experience. Try, learn, and be prepared to make mistakes. The second pillar, visual content, is to bring your ideas to life. However, because Maurizio’s session isn’t on the design track, he skipped it and advised switching to the conference Design track afterward.

The third pillar is communication flow, which includes both what you say and what you must say. And you need to investigate your audience to know what you want to say, but because you can’t stalk everyone in your audience, Maurizio advises starting from the end. After your presentation, what do you want your audience to do? And because people usually resist change – you have to persuade them.

Here, Maurizio shared the three pillars on which he thinks a great presentation should stand. His session covered the fundamental pillar of Communication Flow.

If you’re presenting to investors to get funding for your startup, they might be thinking that they do not believe in your team, your market size, your business model, or that you have good traction. All of this means that you must overcome their objections in order to persuade them.

Maurizio suggests listing only your audience’s resistances while doing audience research. He also cites his mother’s wise advice to avoid talking to strangers. How do you hope to persuade an audience that you don’t understand?

Maurizio showed the way in which he does audience research for success, even for huge audiences, which is by listing the possible resistances that your audience might have and tackling them one by one.

When you begin speaking to your audience, bear in mind that they are continually thinking about why they should spend the next 45 minutes listening to you rather than doing something else. And what is something you can do to make them pay attention to you? Focus on them! People love hearing about themselves, they do not care about you at first or the solution you provide.

So why do most presentations start with “I, me, me, me, how big my organization is, how international it is, how much experience I have” – who cares. We shouldn’t start presentations with ourselves. We should start with our audience

Maurizio explained to us that the traditional way is now the wrong way of pitching a business idea. So far, it has started with “me, me, me, you”, but he recommends starting from your audience and ending with you for the best possible impact.

The moment you start talking, you already want something from your audience – their time and attention, which are two scarce resources, maybe the scarcest resources we have in life. And the best way to get something from somebody is to be the first one to give. That way, you gain their attention and give them a reason to care.

Moreover, share, don’t sell when you tell stories. When we talk about pitching, Maurizio introduces us to a model you can use to base your storytelling on, the SCORE model from a book called “The Presentation” by Andrew V. Abela Ph.D.

He introduced the SCORE model – situation, complication, resolution, and evidence – that is a storyline structure that works well for persuasive presentations.

Building stories for persuasion

Stories work, and they have worked for a long time. But when it comes to persuading your stakeholders and triggering change, you must pay attention to how your story is built. Communication becomes much more effective when you use stories. The SCORE model consists of situation, complication, resolution, and evidence.

You start by setting the scene, then add a layer of complexity and difficulty. Your protagonist must be so frustrated that he is willing to do something he has never considered before, suggesting that he is open to change. To get out of this problem, he has to try something new.

It’s not about you, says Maurizio, but about delivering a story to your audience in which they are the lead. And it’s when you explain the problem that your audience is completely engrossed. Then there’s the resolution, and when we’re relieved, we’re pleased, and that happiness is what propels us onward.

To this, Maurizio refers to as storytelling loops. They can be seen in films like Shrek, Pixar films, and many TV shows. Build the tension, attract attention, reduce the tension, and you retain the pleasure, and people are ready to follow you.

Finally, you must provide proof to convince people to trust you. Now it’s your turn to speak about yourself. But, in the end, the problem motivates others to act, not the solution or you talking about yourself. They won’t understand the answer if you don’t prepare them for it because there’s no way we’ll pay attention to the solution if we haven’t felt the frustration of the problem.

The three main components of your storyline

According to Maurizio, any presentation should include those three elements: What? So what? Now what?

What exactly are we discussing? So what, why should I care? What’s next? And then, if you want your audience to take action, you must ask them to do so at the end of your presentation. Maurizio adds a call to action after the SCORE model for any persuasive presentation.

To the SCORE model, Maurizio added a Call to Action at the end. If you want your audience to take any action after your presentation, having that call to action is crucial.

Now, anything that aids you in overcoming the audience’s skepticism is critical to your storyline. We are emotionally attached to some of our content, but Maurizio warns that if it does not help you overcome resistance, you should get rid of it and save your audience from it.

Additionally, to spice up the storyline, Maurizio used the science of persuasion to offer a few concepts you should use to improve your presentation or pitch: reciprocity, authority, consistency, likeability, social proof, scarcity, urgency, and trust.

Let's summarize

In all your presentations focus on people and not on yourself. People love hearing about themselves. Do not begin your presentation with yourself or the solution; your audience will be uninterested. Introduce your audience to the frustration first.

Maurizio shared in detail how to tackle any business or pitch presentation’s storytelling way better than what we have heard many, many times before. Start from the end – start with your audience, and end with yourself.

Moreover, here you can download some free tools that Maurizio provided:

Let us know in the comments what is the most valuable learning for you!

And while reading is great, why not see the whole session yourself? Get the Story Track Recordings for the discounted price of €39 or all 30+ sessions for just €79!


Join Present to Succeed - the biggest presentation skills conference in the world

Whether you are part of an organization or running a business, how your slides look will always factor in your success. Learn how to become an influential speaker by joining our 30+ industry-leading speakers’ sessions.

Start engaging your audience better and influencing them to embrace your concepts, hire you, or buy your products. Now is the best moment to get your ticket!

Join Present to Succeed - the biggest presentation skills conference in the world

Whether you are part of an organization or running a business, how your slides look will always factor in your success. Learn how to become an influential speaker by joining our 30+ industry-leading speakers’ sessions.

Start engaging your audience better and influencing them to embrace your concepts, hire you, or buy your products. Now is the best moment to get your ticket!