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Convince or create a desire?

Many presentations aim at obtaining financing, getting people to accept a project or selling something. In this context, getting the audience’s support can mean the difference between business success and failure. To enable decision making, there are two approaches that are often opposed to one another: argument and emotion.

Making an argument aims at convincing by demonstrating logical reasoning. Gaining approval is thus obtained by evidence, strongly supported by reports, figures and graphs. But presentations based purely on reasoned arguments often generate boredom, and thus a loss of attention, reducing the impact.

Conversely, proponents of emotion think about gaining approval by generating a desire. These presentations will give prominence to images and quotes that raise awareness of the stakes by emphasizing the emotional context of the situation. Though these presentations are often more exciting, they can also quickly spread the feeling that there’s a lack of seriousness, which causes rejection.

Obviously, a speech in a good presentation will alternate arguments and emotions. A particularly effective reflex is to separate what the speaker says with what is displayed in the slides. For example, the speech will be purely factual while the slides will aim at spreading an emotion that will anchor the arguments more firmly.

But to consider that reasoning and emotions are two equivalent mechanisms is wrong. The advent of neuroscience has shown that emotions have a crucial role in the decision making process, as they trigger a desire, even before any logical reasoning has begun. Yet, once one has been enticed, it is much more complicated to get the person to a state of reasoned comparison, since the brain naturally tends to validate the arguments that will allow one to satisfy a desire and minimize arguments that will prevent one from obtaining satisfaction. On the other hand, making a strong argument remains paramount, as it allows, in retrospect, to justify a decision that has already been made.

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