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Motivating Presentation: It Wasn't Only The Egyptians Who Built Pyramids!

When giving a motivating presentation, audience analysis is essential. You must think of your presentation from your audience's viewpoint. Chances are your audience has been asked to attend your presentation (they have not come along voluntarily) and many well be thinking: "What's in it for me?"

Don't take that personally. When giving a motivational presentation, that "What's in it for me?" question should be your call to action. For your presentation to succeed, that is the question you need to answer.

A motivating presentation should be structured in a way that takes your audience from where they are now to where you would like them to be. You first must engage your audience's attention at their current level, and then demonstrate through your presentation how you can fulfill their natural desire to move up to the next level of motivation. Depending on the goals of your presentation and the intended audience, whether a sales force, production personnel or a football team, you must give them a reason to listen to your presentation. A reason that relates to, and builds on, their own experience.

Way back in 1954, American psychologist Abraham Maslow developed the idea of a hierarchy pyramid of human needs. That hierarchy pyramid has been the foundation of motivational presentations ever since. He demonstrated that there are five basic levels of needs that all people have in common: basic, safety, social, self esteem and achievement.

motivating presentation
Maslow's hierarchy pyramid represents various levels of achievement

In the business environment for example, Maslow’s hierarchy from the basic level upward is:

  • Basic needs, which can be met through, attractive salary, holiday entitlement, etc.
  • Safety needs, met by safe working conditions, good pension, health cover.
  • Social needs, such as company fitness and sports club, planned social events such as office parties (my favorite!)
  • Self-esteem needs, by prestigious job titles, sales-team-of-the-year award, etc.
  • Achievement needs, through promotions, interesting job assignments, and so on

Maslow suggested that people can only be motivated to move up to the next needs-level when they have satisfactorily met the main requirements of their current level. In other words, you are unlikely to have much success in your motivating presentation in telling your audience they have been selected to work on a prodigious new project (self esteem) if their current concern is their poor working conditions (safety).

Interestingly, Maslow found that that when the lower-order needs have been fulfilled, the desire to reach the higher-order needs (self esteem and achievement) dramatically increase in strength. The ideal motivating presentation should therefore focus more on the higher-order needs. Needs that excite people to develop their talents to the best of their abilities and enable them to finding greater meaning in their work.


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