4.3 Making Powerful Presentations

Sometimes communication can be more powerful than we realise!

Sometimes communication can be more powerful than we realise! That is why it's important to understand that effective communication is an essential tool in our organisation's goals to achieve change.


Sometimes communication can be more powerful than we realise! That is why it's important to understand that effective communication is an essential tool in our organisation's goals to achieve change.

Unlike traditional marketing or branding tactics, we need the story around our sustainability journey to resonate deeply, connect and bring the audience to a point of reflection, impact or even action. This is a skill, but it also means that our goals and objectives need to be something the audience can empathise with on a human level, understand the data, the need and the why.

Through this activity, you'll craft a powerful presentation by experimenting with different story arcs and emotional journeys for your audience. After trying a few out, you’ll assess which arc best gets your message across.

1. Gather Your Presentation Content

The idea in this first part of the template is for you and your team to reflect on the message that you would like your presentation to revolve around and ideate all the elements that should be part of the presentation.

Dedicate around 5 minutes to think what is the first sustainability issue that you would like to focus on and communicate to your stakeholders, visitors, etc. In the sticky note provided, you should write down what we call the "Big Idea" but, what is this?

The "Big Idea" is the one thing that you want your audience to walk away with.

This should be a short statement, with a maximum length of one sentence. By keeping this idea short, you'll have to be concise, which will help you develop a more precise and powerful message.

Once you have selected the sustainability issue that you would like to present and communicate, you and your team should brainstorm on everything that has an impact on this issue. This will help you identify key points that could be communicated in the presentation, allowing you to further the achievement of your goals by helping others understand what has an impact on the issue and how they can contribute to eliminating it.

During the brainstorming, we would recommend that you keep in mind all the content that we have reviewed during the Sustainability Leadership Programme so far: data, circularity, diversity, collaboration, etc. By approaching and presenting the issue from a holistic perspective, your audiences will be better able to aid your organisation to achieve its goals.

Additionally, in this part of the template, we have included a number of questions to help you spark ideas for the brainstorming in case you get stuck:

  • What are the most pressing challenges you need to solve at the destination?
  • When did shifts occur in your perspective on the issues?
  • What's an issue that is proving very challenging to solve? Is there any absurd idea that could help you overcome it?
  • Are there any sustainability campaigns/presentations that have used emotional tools and that have stuck with you?

2. Experiment With Story Arcs

Now that you have identified the message that you would like to present, it is time to experiment with different story arcs and decide which ones fit best with your "Big Idea" in order to achieve the strongest and most impactful results.

The six different story arcs that we propose in this part of the exercise are:

  • Rising Action. This story arc should be used when there's a clear problem and solution to the sustainability issue that you are presenting. You should present what the issue looks like in the current context, the conflict that it presents, the solution proposed and how the implementation of the solution will impact the destination in the future.
  • The Hero's Journey. This story arc is usually implemented when there's an expectation for the audience to adopt a new idea. Your presentation should then start by presenting the challenge and progressively presenting how the situation will keep worsening until a solution (discovery) is found. Once the solution is identified and presented, an introduction to how the situation will increasingly improve and allow you to reach your objectives will be put forward. At the end of the presentation, you should emphasise what the lesson of the journey will be and how that will allow the destination to move forward more sustainably.
  • Cinderella Story. If the purpose of your presentation is to emphasise the fact that negative circumstances can improve despite finding obstacles or failures along the way, you should experiment with this story arc. Focus on adding the obstacles that you are facing to achieve your sustainability objectives. Start with those that represent the biggest challenges and slowly progress towards how they can best be solved, leading at the end to a more sustainable destination.
  • In Media Res. Does your message require the audience to be hooked from the get-go? Then applying an In Media Res story arc might be the best option for you. By using this type of arc you will be able to attract the audience's attention from the minute you start presenting, as you will start by highlighting the issue and then move on to present it in the context of the destination, looking at how it affects it today and what it could look like in the future by tackling the specific issue.
  • Rags to Riches. Use this arc to communicate a message of hope, optimism, and perseverance. By using this type of story arc, you will present a pessimistic view of the sustainability issue being faced. Nonetheless, as the presentation progresses, you will start developing more optimistic views on the issue, presenting the opportunities that exist to solve it. Also focus on how by working together the negative effects can be reduced and help turn the destination into a sustainable one with the help of everyone involved in it (stakeholders, residents, visitors, etc.).
  • Man in Hole. If your presentation wants to present a realistic view of the issue and also navigate the unexpected troubles that might be faced when trying to eliminate it. With this story arc, you will present the current status of the issue, the possible problems that you might face when trying to resolve it, and finally how you would rise from your troubles and resolve the overall issue within the destination.

Once you have a broad understanding of these different story arcs, you should choose 2-3 of them to experiment with based on the sustainability issue that you would like to tackle within your destination.

The idea is for you to use the elements that you have previously brainstormed in the first part of the template and include them in the story arcs. This will help you map the content onto the appropriate emotional stages of the arcs, helping you build a powerful presentation that appeals to the emotions of the audience.

3. Reflect and Assess

In this third part of the template, after having evaluated and experimented with different story arcs, it is time to reflect on the needs of the message which you want to communicate to your audiences and decide on the story arc that you would like to implement in your presentation.

In order to guide you in deciding which story arc is more suitable for your presentation, we propose the following questions, which are accompanied by some colour dots and stars that can help you visually vote on the different options you have experimented with:

  • Which arc best communicates your Big Idea from step one? Each team member should choose a colour dot and drag it to the story arc that they think best communicates the Big Idea. Remember that the Big Idea is that one statement that you want your audiences to walk away with.
  • Which arc creates the most compelling emotional journey? Again, place your selected colour dots on the story arc that you believe will allow you to best connect on an emotional level with your audience. Remember that by creating an emotional connection with the audience your chances to impact their behaviours will be higher, helping you better achieve your sustainable goals within the destination.
  • Which arc do you think will resonate most with your audience? Apart from acknowledging the importance of connecting with the audience on an emotional level, they must also be able to feel identified with the message of your presentation in order to be influenced. Thus, place the colour dots on the story arc that you believe will best allow the audience to resonate with the message.
  • Which arc is your favourite overall? Take into consideration all of your previous votes, and place your colour star on the story arc that will best allow you to achieve the overall objectives previously presented.

Once everyone in your team has voted on the different story arcs based on the questions presented, reflect on the votes and decide which one you will implement to make your powerful presentation.

4. Build Your Presentation

To finish this week's activity, we have prepared some "slide" templates for you to start designing your powerful presentation. Always keep in mind the story arc that you have chosen to follow for your presentation, adapting the content on the different slides to ensure you are sticking to the original idea.

In order to create a powerful presentation, the first slide should have a punchy and impactful quote that will stick with the audience. This will allow capturing their attention from the first second, generating a bigger opportunity for you to be able to influence their behaviours which are negatively affecting the achievement of the destination's sustainability goals.

The second slide should focus on providing a general overview of the issue and accompany it with some visuals to highlight it and the importance of finding a solution for it. Then, in the third slide, you can dive deeper into the most important aspects of the issue, you can also focus on providing explanations of the solutions that will be implemented and what that will mean for the audience.

Finally, in the last slide, ensure once again the emotional connection of the audience with the message you are transmitting by including more visuals. Make sure these visuals are powerful, as this will allow you to evoke strong emotions in the audience and better aid in changing their behaviours which are negatively impacting the achievement of your destination's sustainability goals.


Time to let all your creativity out! Are you ready to get started? You can complete this activity by downloading the template below.

Sometimes communication can be more powerful than we realise! That is why it's important to understand that effective communication is an essential tool in our organisation's goals to achieve change.