The Image Theory of Decision Making

By on November 28, 2011

Presentations are delivered to create results, or outcomes.  Two common desired outcomes are 1.) a decision, or 2.) a prediction.  Your presentation skills should make you more effective and efficient at achieving desired outcomes when you speak.

In order to achieve your desired outcomes, you need to know the predisposition of your audience so that you can connect with them psychologically as well as logically. One theory relevant to presentation skills and leadership communication about how to make a deep connection with your audience is called the Image Theory of Decision Making.

This theory asserts that decision makers represent information as images. For instance, one image consists of the principles that the decision makers hold dear. (Perhaps corporate sustainability is one of their principles.)

A second image represents the goals they have in mind based on their principles (a 10% reduction in green house gases.)

A third image would be the future state of events that would result from attainment of those goals. (Greater efficiency and market appeal and PR.)

A fourth image would represent the plans to be implemented in the attempt to attain the goal. (Do the plans take into account risk as well as reward?)

The Image Theory of Decision Makinghas been consistently validated as reliable. So, whether you intend to win over Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street, colleagues, or customers, one presentation skill you should have in your bag is: The Image Theory!
Your audience will first want to know how compatible your idea, service, or product is with their current principles, goals, and plans. Your job as a speaker is to link your recommendation to their existing mental insfrastructure. (Have you ever noticed that Thomas Edison shaped the light bulb like a candle flame? Smart move! It matched the existing image of light.)
Next they’ll want to know if the future state you’re offering is consistent with the one they have in their own heads.

Finally, they’ll want to hear and see a description of the possible gains and losses that could result if they were to implement your recommended plans.

Leadership communication depends on the leader’s ability to attach new ideas to the minds of constituents. In other words, leadership communicationshould take into account the principles, goals, and plans that are important to the followers.

And selling new ideas to senior decision makers demands the same presentation skill: the ability to evoke cherished principles, goals, plans and future states in order to earn a fair hearing, and get the results you’re looking for.