Powerful Presenters Engage the Hearts and Minds of an Audience

“Stories are data with a soul.”  —Brené Brown

Many aspiring presenters and presentations fail to connect with- and engage an audience by pursuing the misguided goal of conveying information from the mind of the presenter to the minds of the audience. For a presentation to succeed—to have lasting impact and meaning—a presentation must capture the *hearts and minds* of the audience.

In this clip from “Powerfully Persuasive Presentations,” Jock Murray defines an effective presentation as: “The transfer of emotions supported by data and logic.”  He highlights why presentations must engage both hearts and minds to be successful and gives strong, illustrative examples.



You have to be reconditioned on the way you give presentations and on the way you design presentations. The way you’ve learned to present is by watching other presenters who aren’t good—your whole career.

So, let’s look at what you learned wrong. What you learned wrong is that a presentation is about getting the ideas from the mind of the speaker into the minds of the audience. That you walk in and you have lots of information. You have ideas. You have concepts. You have data. All this in your mind. And at the end of the presentation, that should be in the mind of the audience.  And if you do that well, they will clearly see it the way you see it and agree to what it is that you ask them for. 

If this is your approach, you will fail every time. 

The reason for that is that a presentation is not about the transfer of data. It’s about capturing the heart and the mind of the audience. A presentation really is the transfer of emotions supported by data and logic.

In other words, you go in to a meeting and you feel a certain way about the topic you’re going to speak upon: You’re excited about it; you’re nervous; you’re angry; you’re fearful; you’re worried; you’re enthusiastic. If it’s an important issue—important enough that you’ve put together a presentation and you’re going in front of some group that can make a change in this—you feel strongly in some way. Your goal is that at the end of the presentation they feel the same way you feel. And if they don’t, nothing will happen.

If you walk in passionate and enthusiastic and excited and they leave passionate and enthusiastic and excited, the likelihood of the change you’re requesting happening is considerably better. 

Your job is to transfer the emotions supported by data and logic. Obviously, data and logic are important. You can lose your audience if your logic and data doesn’t make any sense. But you can never win them with only data and logic.

This is true of every person. If all it took was logic—if all it took was data—no one would smoke. It’s not that we don’t have the data. In fact, a lot of people start smoking—many of you—when you went to college. So, you were smart enough and well enough informed to get into college and yet you thought it was a good idea to start smoking your sophomore year. It wasn’t a lack of information. If all it took logic, no one would smoke.

Stories are data with a soul.
— Brené Brown

Stories are data with a soul. The way the human mind works—we need stories. So your job in there when you go in to present is to tell a story. A story that tells what’s wrong with things the way they are. A story that tells how things could be different. And a story that tells what will be the positive outcome of life here if we make these changes. All supported by lots of data and lots of logic.