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  • Writer's pictureLiza Engel

Behind the Scenes: My Strategic Approach to a World Economic Forum Talk

As I prepared for my recent talk at the World Economic Forum, thought that sharing my preparation process could offer unique insights into the art of impactful presentation. So, here's a glimpse into my step-by-step method, a blend of knowledge, impact, and creativity. 

  1. The Briefing Meeting: The journey began with a detailed briefing. Knowing your audience is crucial. I discovered I'd be addressing C-suite executives and board members, mainly proponents of sustainability, yet needing to influence others who were less convinced. Understanding not just the audience's mindset but also the logistics, like the room setup (round tables, approximately 150 people) and the handheld microphone (I prefer a headset, but for a short talk, this was manageable) was pivotal.

  2. Creating and Testing a Hypothesis: Knowing the audience's pro-sustainability stance, yet their challenge in convincing sceptical board members, shaped my hypothesis. I used AI prompts to refine my approach, such as "Identify key challenges in advocating for sustainable practices to sceptical board members."

  3. Providing Value: Next, I focused on the unique insights I could offer. It was crucial to provide enlightening content that would inform and inspire action.

  4. Stake Impact Outcome (see SIO Blog): The stakes were clear – the audience cared deeply about sustainability. The impact I aimed for was to inspire actionable steps post-WEF, leading to concrete strategies they could implement for greater sustainability impact.

  5. Relevant Stories: I then reflected on my personal experiences, choosing stories that resonated with my theme. Personal anecdotes humanize abstract concepts, making them tangible, relatable and memorable.

  6. Crafting the Storyline: My storyline included a captivating hook, clear audience benefits, and 3-5 key points, ensuring no one was overwhelmed with information. I refined the transitions between these points by speaking them out loud and recording myself, even during dog walks, to ensure a natural and logical flow.

  7. Expert Feedback and Testing: Before finalizing my talk, I sought feedback from other experts in the field. Presenting my draft to them and asking for their critiques and questions was invaluable. Their perspectives helped me fine-tune my content and anticipate possible audience queries.

  8. The Slide(s): The visual aid was chosen thoughtfully, a single slide featuring an image of a yellow Volvo station wagon (the car my parents had when I was born). It served a dual purpose: introducing myself with a personal story and symbolizing the evolution of concepts, like how specific roles or ideas become obsolete. On top, I added 4 points to serve as the North-South-East-West compassion to help them on the most crucial transformation ever. 

This preparation journey was more than just creating a presentation; it was about crafting an engaging experience. Whether it's a brief talk or an hour-long keynote, the process remains fundamentally the same.

  • Image by Dr. Gabriela Seiz

Standing at the WEF, sharing my message, and seeing head nods and smiles in the audience was incredibly rewarding. The preparation paid off, affirming that the true art of presentation lies in the meticulous preparation that brings each word and idea to life, empowered by passion and joy.

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