When you boil it down, the ultimate purpose of any presentation, especially in business, is to persuade. Even if you are not looking to make a sale, gain a contract or change audience members’ minds, you are still attempting to persuade them to listen to you, and to accept your point of view. It’s a task that is easier said than done!
My aim with this article is to break down six common techniques that can be applied to make your job as a persuasive presenter a little easier. Let’s jump right in with the first technique!
1) Research the Audience
In almost any persuasive speaking situation, there will be a subset of the audience that agrees, that disagrees, and that are undecided about the topic.
- Trying to persuade the segment of the audience that adamantly disagrees with the perspective voiced is generally unlikely (though not unheard of).
- Instead you should focus on the part of the audience that is undecided on the issue. Speaking more directly to this group of undecideds allows you to tailor the speech more towards their concerns.
Furthermore, members of the audience probably have a great deal on their mind, and you are competing with many preoccupations. They’ve got only a limited period of time to listen to you. Conduct some research, talk to people who have spoken to this group before, and know what makes this particular audience tick.
Remember that an audience who sense that a presenter “knows” them are more likely to invest the time and attention to listen to you and perhaps adopt your point of view.
2) Grab Audience Attention
When it comes to presentations, the most difficult thing to do is probably grab your audience’s attention. You must prepare a great opening that will make everyone listen to you attentively from the very start.
Highly persuasive speakers start their presentation or speech with an emotional punch, not only to gain the audience’s attention but also produce a positive response. Your audience will make an instant judgement about whether your talk is relevant and interesting to them. So grab their attention straightaway with a bold, humorous or intriguing statement.
Check out 5 effective ways to open any speech here.
3) Demonstrate Passion
Genuine passion provides an intensity that cuts through all the distractions and allows a speaker to connect with their audience. That passion must translate into a belief that your message, your offering can help or solve the problems of audience members.
That passion must reflect a belief that the message you are presenting is for the audience’s benefit, not your own. When you have this passion, even those predisposed to disagree will listen to you, for they know you are sincere, have grasped their problem, and want to help.
4) Be Easy to Understand
If your audience doesn’t understand you, they can’t be persuaded by you. To be an effective communicator you’ve first got to be a clear communicator.
You must use words, phrases, examples, and visuals that are understandable, and you must deliver them at a pace that the audience can absorb. Achieve this by:
- using words that the audience uses
- avoiding technical jargon that the audience isn’t familiar with
- favouring short words and phrases over long and convoluted ones
5) Make the Content Real
You can construct as many convincing arguments about theories and ideas as you like, but the audience will be left to wonder whether the theory holds true in reality.
Real examples and case studies show that the theory works in the real world. Real content improves the strength of your arguments, and thus makes your overall message more persuasive.
Compare the following statements:
- Every year, many people die of cancer.
- Every year, 3000 people in our community die of cancer.
Which one of these statements is more likely to persuade your audience to contribute money to cancer research?
A statistic may be accurate, but without citing a source, the audience may dismiss it. By citing sources, you persuade.
6) Use Effective Body Language
To be a great speaker you can’t forget the major communication tool that is body language. When you use it correctly you look more confident, convey your message more easily and people understand you better. Your manner of speaking, facial expressions, posture and physical movements are crucially important when you seek to persuade.
Take the simple example of applying effective eye contact. As you move your focus from person to person throughout the room it results in building more trust between the speaker and the audience.
Learn more by reading the ultimate guide to body langauge here.
Over To You
In summary here are the 6 simple ways to be more persuasive in your next speech:
- Research the audience
- Grab audience attention
- Demonstrate passion
- Be easy to understand
- Make the content real
- Use effective body language
BONUS: leave the stage with a clear final call to action. The last words of a speech are what you will leave in the minds of your audience. Make those words clear, make them powerful and you’ll make the audience act!