The term “persuasion” can sometimes have a negative connotation.
But persuading somebody to do something we truly believe in isn’t a bad thing. For example, in my monthly Castanet columns I attempt to persuade you, the reader, to focus on improving your public speaking and communication skills.
Why? Because I’m convinced effective communication can improve your business and social relationships.
Learning how to persuade one person to do something is a challenge in itself; however, persuading an entire audience to take action is even more difficult.
In this month’s column, I break down five ways to create a powerful speech, with the goal of influencing your audience.
1. Establish credibility
If I’m trying to convince you to buy a boat, but I don’t own a boat myself, you’re likely to be skeptical about my pitch.
Establishing credibility is one of the most important parts of creating a persuasive speech, because your audience is much more likely to take your message seriously if you have the experience to back up your position.
But what if you don’t have experience yet?
While experience plays a major role, you can also establish credibility by doing research and knowing your subject matter inside out. For example, a new member of a volunteer committee may have a suggestion to make, but fears he/she may not be taken seriously due to inexperience. In this case, the best thing this person could do is review minutes from previous meetings and research data to support the suggestion he/she plans to bring forward.
2. Appeal to your audience’s emotions
Going back to the boat example from the first point, if you’re going to convince individuals in an audience to purchase a boat, you’re likely going to have to tap into their emotional side. Here’s an example of how this could be done while delivering a speech:
“I want you to close your eyes and imagine yourself on a warm, sunny afternoon in Kelowna. You and your family step onto your boat, exit the marina, and then speed through Okanagan Lake on the way to your favourite cove. As you glide through the water, the wind blows your hair back and your children are smiling from ear-to-ear. This is what summer in the Okanagan is all about.”
Who doesn’t love the sound of the previous paragraph? We all know boats are expensive to own and require a lot of maintenance… but those concerns can be dealt with later. First, you need to win over your audience by creating a desire for the thing you’re attempting to convince them of doing.
3. Dispel misconceptions
Depending on what you are trying to persuade your audience to do, they may resist your message based on information they heard prior to your speech.
Sticking with the boating example, maybe people have heard the phrase that the two happiest days boat owners have is the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it. In your speech, you may want to address that misconception head-on, and provide your counter-argument.
How do you do this?
You could present survey results or data that shows a high percentage of boat owners are happy they made the decision to purchase a boat 5 years after becoming an owner.
By disarming predictable points of resistance, your audience will be more likely to take your message seriously.
4. Provide “social proof”
“Social proof” is an idea that people are more likely to do something that others — especially those they admire or look up to — have done.
If you’re speaking to a crowd of employees at a company, perhaps you can add an element of persuasion by showing a slide that illustrates how the company CEO is an advocate of your product. Or, if it’s a general audience you’re presenting to, you could consider showcasing celebrities or influential people who embrace the product/service/concept you’re pitching.
5. Create a level of urgency
By ending your presentation with a limited-time offer, you force your audience to embrace your idea or risk facing FOMO (fear of missing out).
The longer your audience waits to take action after your presentation, the more likely they are to get distracted or forget the compelling reason why they were interested in what you had to say in the first place.
Your goal is to get the audience to take action as soon as possible, while your speech is still fresh in their minds.
I hope these five tips help you the next time you have to conduct a sales presentation or convince your audience to donate at a local fundraiser.
If you’re thinking about joining Toastmasters, our Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club is always looking for new members.
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This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.