A persuasive presentation can be one of the most challenging types of presentations. It's not one that you can put together the night before, or one where you can wing it no matter how well you've mastered your topic. A persuasive presentation can require painstaking effort. There's much at stake when you're trying to persuade someone to buy into your idea, adopt your solution or approve your proposal. The effort you put into this type of presentation could pay dividends.
These ideas may help you in crafting a successful persuasive presentation:
Show Them That You've Done Your Homework
Showing your listeners that you've spent time and effort to know who they are can help you make a connection during a persuasive presentation. You could do this by providing examples from their own world. Consider customizing the slide images to resonate with their industry or line of work or tailoring some of your word choices to fit their everyday language. For example, you may want to avoid using a lot of technical language for non-technical listeners or mixed audiences. It can be distancing and can signal that you haven't made an effort to adapt to your listeners. Instead, try to make them feel that the presentation is prepared especially for them. In our harried days, where many might seek shortcuts, those who put a lot of work into customizing their presentations may be more likely to stand out in the room.
Create an Emotional Connection Between You and Your Listeners
There's scientific evidence that we cannot make a decision based on facts alone. Emotions provide essential support to our decision-making process. "Emotion, feeling" says noted neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, "play a role in human reason." (You can watch Damasio describe the importance of emotions in our ability to decide.)
So, it pays to be conscious of the role of emotions when we set out to persuade others of the merits of our proposal or position. You can start to build an emotional connection with your audience even before you meet with them by doing some research and reflecting on what concerns or fears they might have. This could give you an opportunity to address their concerns in your presentation.
There are many other ways to tap into the emotions of your listeners. First of all, you may want to pay attention to the emotions in the room. Consider making adjustments based on what you glean. Do you need to slow down? Do you sense confusion or that you need to step back and explain things in more detail? By responding to the unspoken emotions in the room, we have a chance to deepen the connection between us and our listeners.
Other ways to establish an emotional connection can be through our passion and commitment. Are you able to convey your genuine enthusiasm about what you're selling to the audience? Do you truly believe in your story? As body language expert Amy Cuddy said, "...when we believe our story, we're able to share what we know."
Tell Them What Others Are Doing
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that describes the extent to which our opinions are influenced by those of groups. Studies on this principle of persuasion go back many years. One of the most recent studies was released in 2014 by The Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. To investigate whether online recommendations can sway people's own opinions, the researchers recruited participants from Amazon's Mechanical Turk—a marketplace for businesses to find people who can complete "human intelligence tasks"—and collected 600 responses. The study found that other people’s opinions can sway people’s own choices. So, social proof can be a key element in persuading others to adopt your idea. It's the bandwagon effect. No matter what business you're in, social proof may be a powerful way to persuade others.
There are many ways to incorporate social proof in your persuasive presentations. For example, you can tell your listeners how many of your clients have already adopted your solution or idea. You can show any media mentions the solutions you're proposing have received. You can also mention case studies supporting your views.
Tell Them a Story (or Two)
One of the most persuasive forms of evidence you can use in your persuasive presentation may be a well-crafted story. Stories can be more persuasive than data. They can stimulate interest, increase engagement and help the audience understand what's being said.
Consider adding one or two stories to convince your audience of the merits of your proposal. You can use the story to help bolster the other hard evidence you provide.
Speak With Conviction
While speaking with conviction is important for any presentation, it's particularly important for a persuasive presentation. Any hesitation on your part could introduce some doubts about your proposal in the minds of your listeners. Doubt can be insidious.
Also, consider not reading your presentation. Reading it could put a dent in your credibility. Instead, you may want to do whatever it takes to know your material cold so that you're on autopilot. This could increase your ability to be in the moment. Being present in the moment could help you react to what's going on in the room. It can help you to focus on fielding questions and addressing obstacles. It can help you to notice the listeners' body language so that you may be better able to make adjustments on the fly.
Consider memorizing these key parts of the presentation:
- Your opening statement
- The three or four sentences that outline your central message
- The top three benefits of your proposal or solution
- Your last 30-second wrap-up statement
You can find some tips for memorizing your presentation here.
Provide a Choice of Alternative Solutions
Be thoroughly prepared to address how to mitigate or overcome any potential obstacles to your key idea or proposal. This might require your outlining alternative solutions, such as bundling, for example. Try to anticipate the obstacles that might be raised to your particular proposal. You could create some hidden slides to address your solutions to these obstacles if they come up.
Attempts to persuade may not always be a one-shot deal. If you failed at persuading your audience on the first go-round, consider asking for a second round. You can use all the intelligence you gathered from the first presentation to tweak your next presentation. For example, address objections that were raised, make adjustments to fit the needs you discovered or change the approach to match the prevailing mood of your listeners.
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