One of my daughters knows me cold. Since I'm always on the lookout for great presentations, she created one to convince me to buy an iPhone. I was reluctant at first. By the end of the presentation, I was sold and she got her gift last Christmas.
She's trying again this year and--while I haven't told her yet--it's going to work again. (I hope she doesn't read this article.)
My daughter isn't alone. A New York Times article published on Thursday features this trend. Kids are increasingly using PowerPoint to persuade their parents to buy everything from sneakers to puppies. As a parent and communication expert, I encourage it.
The ability to persuade with a presentation is no longer a "soft skill." It's the fundamental skill to stand out and thrive in the knowledge economy.
I spent the better part of a year researching my 2018 book, Five Stars: The Communication Skills to Get from Good to Great. It features first-person accounts of young professionals who start companies, attract investments or get promoted faster because they are better presenters. In the book, I quote TED Talks curator Chris Anderson, who says, "Presentation literacy isn't an optional extra for the few. It's a core skill for the twenty-first century."
I agree. Students need to learn to give compelling presentations as early as grade school. In a world where a person's value is locked up in their ideas, those who can present their ideas clearly and convincingly have a competitive advantage.
During my research, I was in in touch with a school in North Palm Beach, Florida, called The Benjamin School. The school's mission is to transform students into independent, collaborative and 'fearless' learners. Fearlessness requires overcoming the fear of public speaking.
The school puts on a TEDx event, an independent, locally organized event associated with the global TED conference. In one presentation, a 12-year-old student named Alexa used a four-minute presentation to explain how Aristotle's theory of persuasion convinced her parents to buy her a puppy.
I was intrigued because I often cite Aristotle's three-part formula as a model for presentations. Aristotle suggested that all persuasive arguments must contain ethos (ethics and character), logos (a logical structure), and ethos (emotion).
Alexa's presentation had all three elements. She described them:
"For Logos, I appealed to science. I used compelling evidence such as: 'Mom, a puppy will lower your blood pressure in stressful situations...for Ethos, I told them how a puppy would make us good and noble people. Finally, I used pathos. For this, I needed my little sister. She came in with a stuffed animal that resembled a Goldendoodle. She gave my mom a face she couldn't resist."
Alexa got her puppy.
My daughter's eight-slide presentation which she made in Google slides had all of the elements of a convincing presentation, too.
- Simple, uncluttered slides that contained more photos than text.
- A logical argument explaining the five benefits of having an iPhone, like making it easier to for me reach her during long hours at the gymnastics gym.
- An emotional moment. She knows I wrote a book about Steve Jobs, so she closed with a slide titled "One More Thing..."
Alexa, the 12-year-old Benjamin School student, ended her presentation with this piece of advice: "Persuasion is an art that everyone should try and master. It'll be worth it." I can't say it better myself. It will be worth it, so give your kids a head start.