Although this article is about helping business speakers improve the effectiveness of their presentations, there’s much that’s helpful for preachers and Bible teachers too.

Nancy Duarte’s basic point is that a presentation’s purpose is to change people. However, as people are usually resistant to change you need to devise strategies to disarm their objections and overcome their obstacles to change. Anticipating such resistance will sharpen the presentation and improve its chances of accomplishing its goal. It also conveys to the audience that you’ve thought about them, not just yourself and your presentation, making them more open to your call to action.

She encourages presenters to think about three common types of resistance:

1. Logical resistance: As you plan your presentation, try to come up with arguments against your perspective. Familiarize yourself with alternate lines of reasoning by digging up articles, blog posts, and reports that challenge your stance.

2. Emotional resistance:
 Does your audience hold fast to a bias, dogma, or moral code — and do your ideas violate that in some way? Hitting raw nerves will set people off. So look at things from their perspective, and proceed carefully.

3. Practical resistance: Is it physically or geographically difficult for the audience to do what you’re asking? Acknowledge any sacrifices they’re making, and show that you’re shouldering some of the burden yourself.

Anticipating resistance forces you to really think about the people you’re presenting to, and that makes it easier to influence them. If you’ve made a sincere effort to look at the world through their eyes, it will show when you speak. You’ll feel more warmly toward them, so you’ll take on a conversational tone. You’ll sound — and be — authentic when you address their concerns. As a result, you’ll disarm them, and they’ll be more likely to accept your message.

You’d think Nancy was a homiletics teacher!

Disarm your audience when you present by Nancy Duarte.

  • Wesley

    great thoughts – thanks for sharing this. How important is it, in your view, to address opposing viewpoints in your sermon? Is it more info you should have in your mind as you prepare or is it, rather, something you should explicitly address within the body of your sermon?

    • David Murray

      Both, depending on the sermon/context.