Guest post by Simon Choi.
Learning how to present your ideas with persuasion is an invaluable skill. Whether it’s in a team meeting, a client presentation, in a webinar or Zoom meeting (probably the most likely circumstance in the current environment), or to your peers at a conference, here’s a method and specific steps to get your audience on board with your idea.
To successfully persuade your audience when presenting your idea(s) there are four key things you need to do:
- Engage your audience (grab their attention).
- Build trust with your audience in relation to your idea.
- Create a connection and a need for your idea – why do they want it or need it?
- Keep their attention and interest in your idea.
But how exactly do you do this? Well, you need to PASS your presentation:
- PREPARE your presentation effectively.
- Make it all about the AUDIENCE.
- Use STORYTELLING to build a connection.
- STRUCTURE your presentation to keep interest.
These are the four key elements you need to take your presentation from boring and ineffective to persuasive and memorable. Here’s a breakdown of each of those elements.
Prepare – Preparation is key
Benjamin Franklin said it best: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” And this statement could not be more true when it comes to presenting your ideas persuasively. Whether it’s pitching your ideas in a team meeting or a more formal presentation with a PowerPoint and microphone (and/or webcam), there are two key steps to preparing successfully:
Whatever your idea is about, you need to conduct research. People are persuaded by presenters who know their stuff. So, whether you’re pitching a story for publication or presenting a marketing campaign to your client – know what you’re talking about and show you’ve done your homework. Knowledge instills confidence and confidence helps persuade.
It’s important to plan your presentation and to practice delivering it. Having your eyes glued to the speech you’re reading because you aren’t familiar with it limits you from interacting with your audience and ultimately affects your ability to persuade them effectively. By practicing your delivery, you’ll come across confident, trustworthy, and persuasive.
Audience – Make it all about your audience
A vital step in being persuasive in your presentation is to focus on your audience. You need to make them feel included in your ideas. There are two ways to do this:
Frame your ideas around them
What problems are you solving for them? Why do they want to buy into, commission, or agree with your idea? Why is this idea better than others? If you can answer their questions before they’ve even thought of them, you’ll build confidence and trust in your idea and you’re more likely to persuade them to embrace it.
Engage with your audience
You’ll never persuade your audience if you ignore them. You need to make eye contact and use your body language to encourage them. Hiding behind a podium reading your presentation off of the paper won’t help you engage with your audience or persuade them. Learn how to use your body language to be persuasive during a presentation.
Story – Take your audience on a journey by telling them a story
Rather than overwhelming your audience with an endless stream of figures and data, engage them through storytelling. It could be a story about anything, but it should help explain one or more of the key points you want to get across.
- If your idea is a product, tell them a story about what inspired the creation of the product or about the issue your product solves.
- If you’re pitching a marketing idea, tell a story that explains how this idea will help the client engage with their target demographic.
By telling your audience a story about you, your idea, or how it can help them, you start building an image in their minds. And through visualization, you’re helping your audience connect with your idea – a key step in persuading them.
Structure – Keep it short, simple and structured
Structuring your idea into a presentable and engaging delivery is essential if you want to be persuasive. Jumbling up your points and rambling on makes it difficult for your audience to follow your train of thought and impossible for them to engage effectively. To be persuasive, you need to make your presentation short, simple, and structured.
Short and simple can be relative
How long your presentation lasts, and how simple or complex the information you present is, should be dictated by what is suitable for your audience.
A scientist delivering their latest theory to their peers at a conference will need more time presenting than a marketing assistant pitching a client campaign idea to an account manager.
And while a scientist does not need to make their presentation accessible and understandable to a lay audience, a politician looking to persuade voters to support them in an upcoming election needs to make their presentation simple to understand.
So, what constitutes making your presentation “short and simple” should be driven by your audience. How long will they stay engaged? How much knowledge about the subject are you assuming they have? If you build your presentation on the answers to these questions, then you’ve got a solid foundation for persuasive delivery.
Once you’ve assembled your key points and profiled your audience in terms of knowledge level and time frame, then you’re ready to turn to the all-important structure!
Structure your presentation like a story
How you put together your presentation is critical. You need to take your audience on a journey with your idea. A jumbled order that is difficult to follow won’t persuade anyone to follow your idea.
Instead, think of your presentation as a story. Early on in our school years, we learn that every good story has a beginning, middle, and end – and the same is true for a good, persuasive presentation.
- The beginning should grab the attention of your audience. Tell them exactly why this idea is worth paying attention to. Introduce the key points that you want to get across.
- The middle is where you tell them that story. You help them connect with the idea, understand it, and build their confidence in you being the right person to deliver it. You should break down your key points in more detail so your audience understands them.
- The end is where a lot of people go wrong. You need to sustain the engagement and interest you developed during the middle, and finish by convincing them of why your idea is the one to go with. Repeat and emphasize your key points, and remember to be confident, knowledgeable, and genuine.
Take this blog post as an example. It introduced PASS as a technique for creating a persuasive presentation, then detailed each of the steps. To wrap it up, in order to be persuasive in presenting your ideas you need to:
- Prepare your presentation thoroughly.
- Build the presentation around your audience and engage with them.
- Tell your audience a story giving them the chance to visualize and connect with your idea.
- Structure your presentation to keep your audience engaged and interested.
So now you know how to PASS your presentation and be persuasive in your delivery. These steps and skills are adaptable to whatever situation you find yourself in where you’re sharing your ideas and trying to get the audience on board.
If you want to learn more about becoming persuasive, check out this round-up of the 5 TED Talks that will make you more persuasive.