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Presentation Tips: Putting Your Presentation in Historical Context

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

If you think about it, a presentation or pitch for your product isn’t very different from a political speech. A political campaign is essentially a type of marketing, and instead of presenting a product or a service, you are trying to pitch the audience on yourself, or your favored candidate’s agenda.


The average political speech may contain a lot of buzzwords, vague statements, or policy issues, but there is one thing that any marketer can learn from a good political speech, and that is the “Appeal to History.” Think of a presidential inauguration, for example, where the incoming President will likely reference those that stood on this stage before him, and acknowledge the accomplishments that great leaders of past generations have made. For example, Barack Obama quoted former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a 2015 speech, advocating for immigration reform. “Remember, always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists. Immigrants and revolutionists. Now, that’s not the story of looking backwards; that’s the story of looking forward.”


This appeal to history was similarly made in the field of technology, when Steve Jobs gave a famous 2007 presentation, introducing the iPhone. Jobs started his presentation not by talking about the iPhone itself, but by speaking of the Mac desktop that came out in 1984, as well as the original iPod that was released in 2001. Jobs briefly but clearly spoke of the transformative impact that these two inventions had, such as the iPod’s impact in changing how the music was consumed. By presenting this context, Jobs was establishing further credibility with his enthusiastic audience. Jobs was able to successfully contrast the iPhone with previous successes, and demonstrated both Apple’s proven track record as well as heightening the importance of the new product.


Obviously, one has to be careful when presenting said historical context for their brand. Most people are not as famous as Steve Jobs or Barack Obama, and most products are not going to be as successful or transformative as the products that Jobs mentioned in his presentation. To make a grand political speech about your service may backfire. But one does not need to be dramatic or exaggerate about their brand in order to sell it in a similar way. Most brands are not created in a vacuum, there will be similar products on the market and/or released in the past to compare it to. In addition, one can establish credibility with your audience by giving examples of how your company’s products have succeeded in the past. The key is that once you have hooked in your audience, you must tie it to the present, specifically the brand or service you are selling, and make sure the historical comparison makes sense. Once you do that, you can end your speech by looking towards the future, and the great possibilities that could come as a result of your product, just as these successful past products have made great impacts themselves. The point of said appeal is not to be pretentious or exaggerate your products importance, but rather to put its impact into historical context, and give people more of a reason to feel invested in your brand. When you really feel invested in something, you can go a long way.




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