Influence Mastery: The Two Foundations of Presentation Persuasion
Have you ever had a BRILLIANT idea?
Then you excitedly told your colleague about it, what was their reaction?
“Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them.”
~ Alfred North Whitehead
Chances are, they would give a smile and say something “yes that sounds good, I think it can work.” Or maybe they asked some questions that you haven’t thought about.
Suddenly, the “brilliant” idea doesn’t seem so brilliant anymore.
Don’t despair. In this article I will show you how to become a master of persuasion from using ‘just’ two principles.
Being a persuasion master is not about making a long or complicated story. In most cases, it is a simple and concise story that follows a set plan. Here is a caveat – you MUST get the two foundations correct.
The two foundations are…
1. Who is your audience.
2. How are they best persuaded?
You probably have heard these two questions, perhaps as part of the 5W1H of an audience or presentation topic analysis. However, I will focus on just 1W (Who) and 1H (How) because these two if answered correctly, will shine your brilliant idea all the way to the end.
We have seen so many talented and skilled executives making the mistake of falling in love with their own brilliant ideas and completely ignoring their audiences’ point of view. They focused too much on getting the audience to come to ‘my’ point of view whereas the idea needs to be positioned to the audience point of view!
Let’s dive into how to really get to know your audience. You may want to grab yourself a pen and paper.
Step into their world
It is not enough to just know their name, their title, and their job scope. You have to dig a little deeper but keep it relevant. Knowing their pet’s name or favorite food won’t make any difference to your brilliant idea. If anything, it makes you seem a bit stalkerish!
When you can ‘wear the other person’s shoes’, you can start to see things from their point of view. This in turn helps you to think how best to talk about your idea to make it brilliant in their eyes.
Here are some relevant things to think about your audience:
1. What are their motivations? Write down the carrots and the sticks. Perhaps they are also motivated by a higher purpose, for example, helping a cause, greater well-being, etc? Write all these down.
2. What are their hopes and fears?
3. What successes are they proud of? Where have they failed?
4. What is their persona at work? What is their work style?
You may not be able to get facts on all the questions above. Unless the audience is someone you work with closely or often, it is unlikely you will know for sure what are the fears (for example). You may need to tap on your network, have a conversation with a key influencer or make an educated guess based on your experience.
An educated guess is better than a stab in the dark
How do we use the answers above? Here is some guidance.
Your idea should not remind them about where they have failed in the past. This line won’t work: “Remember that project where we wasted a lot of time and money? Here’s a better idea”. As good as your intentions are, humans, in general, prefer to disassociate themselves from things that cause pain and get defensive when forced to face them.
If your audience is someone who prefers to be direct to the point, telling a backstory on how this brilliant idea came to your head won’t interest them at all!
The same applies when the more senior your audience is. And, when you’re pitching a new idea for buy-in.
Now that you have the first foundation (Who) under your belt, the second foundation (How) comes naturally.
Secret tip: Our specialists have many precious nuggets like these that they share when working with professionals to develop their leadership skills.
How to nudge them towards saying yes
When you know your audiences’ hopes and motivations, you can start to align your brilliant idea towards these things. Even better if you can align your idea with a past success because it gives them more confidence.
What if there are many audiences?
You can position your idea into a common hope and motivator. For example, if you are trying to persuade a board of directors, a common hope among them would be ‘to make their equity grow’.
When your audience can see that you understand them, then they can start to see your brilliant idea.
Don’t nudge them away!
You can have these two foundations in place and say something off the cuff that can wash away your hard work just like that.
So briefly, here are some bonus tips for you.
How NOT to persuade
• Don’t assume your viewpoint is obvious. It implies your audience is stupid for not seeing things the way you do.
• Don’t exaggerate. Exaggeration undermines your credibility. Just stick to the facts.
• Don’t use absolute words like ‘always’ or ‘never’. Your audience will get defensive because they can think of at least one time where ‘always’ didn’t happen. Or, ‘never’ did!
• Don’t tell them what they should do. You don’t like being told what you should do. Neither does your audience. Although you are looking to persuade them, you can neutralise the ‘should’ with “you might consider…”
• Don’t blame your audience for your feelings. They will become defensive straightaway. It is natural to be defensive about something you are blamed for.
• Don’t challenge someone’s character or integrity. Do you like being challenged in this way? Thought not.
• Don’t say it’s not personal. Because the subject can be very personal to someone. They will automatically assume you don’t understand their point of view.
• Don’t sweat the small stuff. The small stuff here are the things that can easily shut down your brilliant idea. Watch your language, especially when thinking on your feet in a Q&A setting. You may not feel like yourself at first, but eventually as you practice more, you will feel more at ease.
Now that you know the two foundations to become the master of persuasion, your brilliant idea can shine!