Is your intent as compelling as your information?

Every presentation, speech or media interview you give is packed with information. But are you always including one other vital element? And that is – intent.

The intent should be to cause change: a change of understanding, a change of behaviour, a change of policy.

Information with intent is a powerful tool. Information without intent is just white noise.

As you plan your presentation, do you always take time to think about the change you want to bring about? 

Many of us, I’m sure, have been guilty of thinking the underlying message of a speech is so obvious that we assume our audience will need no help to divine our intent.

Rather than take that risk, make your intention clear throughout your presentation.

  • Indicate from the get-go where you want to take the audience.
  • As the speech develops, include reminders of how each element addresses the overall intention.
  • And at the end you can even state you intent in the form of a call to action. If that CTA has an emotional element, so much the better.

These thoughts were prompted by a United Nations report a few days ago about biodiversity loss. Oh dear. Another gloomy scientific report about stuff we should care about – but what can we do?

As if anticipating science fatigue, the report’s author Cristiana Pasca Palmer (pictured) made her CTA very clear. “People need to put pressure on governments to draw up global targets within 2 years to protect insects, birds, plants and mammals.” 

As one influential newspaper summarized it, using Pasca Palmer’s own graphic description of biodiversity loss: “The world has two years to secure a deal for nature to halt a ‘silent killer’.” 

Earlier she had delivered the basic information: the already-high rates of biodiversity loss from habitat destruction, chemical pollution and invasive species would accelerate in the coming 30 years as a result of climate change and growing human populations. By 2050, Africa would lose 50% of its birds and mammals, and Asian fisheries could collapse. The loss of plants and sea life would reduce the Earth’s ability to absorb carbon, creating a vicious cycle.

If Cristiana Pasca Palmer had wanted merely to deliver information that would raise awareness and cause hand-wringing, her comments could have been dismissed as more gloomy science talk.

But her intent behind the information was to cause change: to provoke action. 

And she chose her words for media interviews carefully, to reinforce her call to action.

“It’s a silent killer. It’s different from climate change. With biodiversity, it is not so clear but by the time you feel what is happening, it may be too late.”

“The numbers are staggering. I hope we aren’t the first species to document our own extinction.”

“It’s still in our hands but the window for action is narrowing.” 

It was a well-researched, thoughtful, information-heavy report. But the call to action was clear: lobby politicians for action now.

And Cristiana Pasca Palmer knew that for her message to resonate she needed some quotes and soundbites that had a powerful, emotional element. 

A great combination of information and intent.

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Neil Everton

Neil Everton has distilled a lifetime’s experience with some of the world’s top news organizations into his Media Mastery training aids for anyone worried about talking to reporters. The video, books, e-books and workbooks are available in the Podium Coaching online store.