Use These 13 Tips to Master the Art of Q&A

Q&A is like unchartered territory – unpredictable and full of surprises. It’s a double edged sword, either reinforcing your message or undermining it. One wrong move and you may lose the credibility you’ve worked hard to build as a speaker.

Many speakers – even seasoned ones – are intimidated in this area but who wouldn’t be? You can’t know the questions that will be coming your way. It’s one thing to talk to a crowd but another when it’s a two-way dialogue taking place.

Q&A sessions are not just a matter of conveying the message – it’s also receiving on your end as well – which makes sense why so many can get stage fright, and possibly a break a cold sweat just thinking about it.

Either way, whether you love or hate it, Q&A sessions are an essential tool. It makes your talk a subject of conversation and a way to connect with your audience. With a bit of preparation, research and determination, you can leverage on the Q&A session to help elevate your talk and reinforce your credibility as a speaker.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help ensure your Q&A sessions are as smooth-sailing as possible:

1)    Q&A Objectives

A good Q&A session is more than just an allocated time slot for your audience to ask random questions.

The purpose of a Q&A like any presentation, speech or pitch needs to have a clear objective that meets the goal at the end of the day. That means making it evident of the direction you want the session to go.

If you do make use of a moderator, a good one would already be guiding your session to the desired direction easily.

2)    Hold a briefing session before the event

It is vital that you brief everyone before your presentation so they are prepared which in turn, can provide the best experience for your audience.

Clarify any issues, questions or instructions from the people working behind the scenes such as stage managers and moderators before running through the event program so everything is in place and running smoothly.

3)    Dedicate enough time

This is something you should establish earlier on in the planning stages of your session. Timing for a Q&A session depends on your set up. If your Q&A session will be conducted after your presentation, then a good 15 minutes should be given. However, if it is a team presentation, then the time given should be extended to ensure each presenter gets a chance to answer the questions as well.

Speakers often focus their efforts into the presentation and leave the remaining time allocated to a Q&A session. This means the audience can only answer one or two questions at best. This compromises further engagement with the audience.

To further engage your audience and strengthen your credibility as a speaker, the Q&A session should match the length of the presentation. You can even consider switching it the other way round where your presentation is short and sweet followed by a longer Q&A 

4)    Prepare questions beforehand 

“Over prepare then go with the flow” – Regina Brett

It doesn’t hurt to over prepare – after all it’s the backbone of success. To ensure you’re not caught off guard or flustered over the questions the audience may ask, think of a few to anticipate beforehand.

Make it a habit to write down these questions down especially the tough or controversial ones before rehearsing your answer. Run a mock session with your trusted and reliable colleagues, friends or family to ensure your answers are well thought of and don’t offend your audience. The evaluation and feedback given from the mock session is key to helping you improve as a speaker.

But, if there are a lack of questions asked during your presentation, don’t shy away from initiating first. Not only do you avoid awkward silences, it also helps to kick start the discussion and inspire more questions from the audience.

5)    Engage a strong moderator

If you need someone to moderate your Q&A session, then it’s important to choose a good moderator as they can help boost the effectiveness of your Q&A. Ultimately, the role of the moderator is to bridge the gap between the audience and the speaker. Hence, they need to be someone who is comfortable with being on stage, able to handle pressure and facilitate the conversation – not join in or control it.

A good moderator ensures the purpose of the session is intact, is able to guide the questions back to the main topic of the session as well as prevent the session from being hijacked by a troublesome audience member. Make sure to take these considerations in mind when finding a good moderator.

6)    Collect Questions Ahead of the Event

Throughout the event, you can start collecting questions before and during your speech. This is helpful in several ways. You as the speaker will be able to plan how to address these questions. The moderator will be able to guide the session better.For the audience, they’re able to ask questions that truly matter instead of scrambling to think of one that may not be useful to them or you. It’s a win-win situation.

One of the ways to collect questions beforehand is using Mentimeter or Kahoot. Both are polling tools where you or your audience can set questions or provide input via a mobile phone or any other device connected to the Internet.

7)    Use the right tools and equipment

Are you planning on having your audience ask their questions vocally or online? Either way, make sure that these tools are able to function with ease during the session itself.

If you’re making use of a microphone, ensure the volume of the microphone is loud enough that even the audience from the back are able to hear the questions asked loud and clear. If you’re facilitating the questions online, then make sure the Wi-Fi or internet is strong so you can receive their questions easily.

8)    Pause

It’s not life or death situation if you need a moment to think before answering a question. Sometimes, answering too quickly may make you seem defensive to the audience so it’s okay to take a few seconds to indulge the question. Not only that, answering instantly may wind up making you stumble over your answers which in turn makes them doubt your credibility. Worse, you may even make the mistake of answering nothing related in your haste.

Although it may be awkward to pause due to the silence, your audience won’t think badly of it. In fact, they will appreciate that you took the time to process their questions. You’ll also look more genuine and authentic as a speaker – not a scripted, monotonous robot.

9)    Reduce filler words

Although not everyone is graced with speaking fluently in front of an audience, constantly saying ‘um’, ‘well’, ‘you know’ and ‘uh’ will do little to establish your credibility as a speaker. These filler words will also annoy your audience when used repetitively.

But what you can do is reduce using these fillers when speaking. Make it a habit to pause so you can gather your thoughts before you speak. Better to take a few seconds to speak in a cohesive manner than instantly speaking, stumbling over your words.

10) Get straight to the point

Often times, speakers beat around the bush when answering questions during Q&A. It may or may not be intentional as there are other factors that can cause the speaker to answer the questions in a long-winded manner.

For instance, they may not have listened closely or they may not have not known how to answer the question and decided to change the topic. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Beating around the bush will only compromise your credibility as a speaker.

So before you answer a question, make sure to listen carefully. Then, make sure to give a short and straight forward answer.

This brings me to my next point.

11) Confirm that you’ve answered the question

After answering a question, always make sure you clarify if you have truly answered it. Throughout the Q&A session, make it a habit to ask if you’ve answered the question or if your answer was clear. It shows you care and that their needs are being met.

12) Don’t get thrown off by the awkward or random question

Elon Musk mentions that even the most well-prepared and organised presentation can go haywire if the speaker is confronted by irrelevant, random and awkward questions.

If you’re lucky, you won’t encounter this. Nonetheless, it’s still important to be prepared to face it and answer as professionally as possible before tying it back to the topic.

This may take a few tweaks here and there especially when It comes to mastering how to handle awkward questions. With that being said, even if the questions asked are not related, answer it honestly anyway. It may end up being the answer you are most remembered for.

One example is Former President Bill Clinton who encounters being asked a totally random question: “Boxers or Briefs?”. Although the question was puzzling and did not tie with his speech, he answered anyway.

Here’s a video of Elon Musk calmly tackling random and awkward questions after his presentation:

Notice how most of the audience members in the video ask long-winded questions. Elon Musk does not harshly tell them off but firmly says “No essays, only questions” to bring them back on track.

13) Learn How to Handle a Tough Audience

Of course most of the questions asked by the audience are sincere. Their intentions are never to hurt or bring malice upon the speaker.

But sometimes, we are faced with audience members who ask questions intended to make themselves look smarter, put the focus on them or, make the speaker look dumb and undermine their credibility

Whatever the purpose is, there many ways to come out unscathed when handling a tough crowd. Despite so, always make sure to be the bigger person. Answer all their questions with professionalism and keep your emotions in check.

Ending the Session

And we’re nearing the end! You’re almost done so make sure to end the session off strong.

Summarise in one or two short sentences encompassing the message of your talk and always make sure to thank the audience for their time and attention – even if they were a tough audience.

Always be humbled by the audience’s presence even if the talk did not go as plan. This sincerity in turn, may keep your audience coming back for more – or at least leave a long lasting impression on them.

Summing It Up 

The best Q&A sessions are ones where you provide your audience with a voice and a safe space for interaction. Not just for the sake of having one.

It all boils down to one purpose: to enhance their learning experience after your presentation or speech.

With that being said, Q&A sessions are only one of the many factors that help you craft an impressive presentation. Make sure to put in the same amount of effort and dedication to planning and executing your presentation as well, and you’ll definitely have a presentation with that ‘wow’ factor.

Don’t forget to implement the 13 steps mentioned to help maximise your Q&A session’s potential and added value. Remember to:

1.     Prepare yourself and others

–       Know your objective the the Q&A session

–       Brief others of your plan

–       Delegate enough time

–       Anticipate and prepare questions that may be asked

–       Ensure you have a strong moderator

–       Make use of the right tools to enhance your session

2.     Do not rush and stumble on your words

3.     Don’t beat around the bush

4.     Ensure if you’ve answered the questions properly

5.     Don’t get thrown off by awkward questions

6.     Learn to handle a tough crowd

Let us know and comment down below if it worked for you!

Ways to Convince and Switch a Tough Crowd

Every time you go up on stage to speak to the audience, it’s ultimately to establish and develop a good relationship with them. To win the heart of the audience is to gain their trust and their respect all while providing engagement and credible information during a speech.

With that being said however, most speakers worry about whether their audience will like them or not – especially when they have to speak to a tough crowd.

How to Approach Tough Audience Members 

These tough audiences can come in many forms. They’re either unimpressed, unconvinced or  will jump at any opportunity to scrutinise and judge your every action. If not, they could just be plain uninterested.

This is every speaker’s worse nightmare. But while it can be daunting to face these groups of people, there are ways you can get them to switch to your side. All you need is a lot of determination, patience and effort.

So let’s start with knowing the audience. In order to get a tough audience to switch, it’s important that we understand what type of tough audience members we can typically find. This is so we can frame our presentations to adapt to their needs.

Here are the four types of difficult audience members and how to approach them:

1. The Entertainer

Just like their label, they love the social part of public speaking and this is often more important to them than listening to you. They participate by offering comments and questions to entertain and make the attention shift towards them rather than on the speaker.

At times, they can be of great entertainment but if you’re trying to bring up or convey a serious issue, their energy can undermine your efforts.

Here’s how to identify one:

  • They constantly promote themselves
  • They crack jokes

How to Handle This Type:

a) Bite Your Tongue

Do not challenge them unless you wish to make a new enemy. Resist the temptation to give a witty comeback or to crush his or her ego. Instead, be polite and answer their question before quickly moving on.

b) Leverage On Their Energy Skilfully

Sometimes, it’s okay to direct the attention towards the entertainer. Keep them involved by constantly asking questions and giving plenty of eye contact. However, to give the other audience members a chance to participate as well, only ask the entertainers a very specific type of question.

If that doesn’t work, cut short any comments that do not relate to the question.

c) Maintain an Easygoing Approach

Avoid being too serious or you’ll seem like a wet blanket. It’s okay to go with the flow with the entertainer at times. You can laugh at their jokes and give your audience some fun via this entertainer.

This helps give your audience a break – especially when the topic is difficult, complex or boring – before pulling them back to focus.

d) Bring Them Back on Track

Sometimes your talk may require the scene to be much more serious due to the depth of the issue. To ensure, that the entertainer does not lead the talk out of point, gently get them on track by mentioning the purpose of your speech and how you’d prefer the audience to behave.

2. The Rock

This person does not budge. Literally. No matter how much you try to engage with them, they won’t respond or provide any sort of reaction at all.

This is because they’re often socially anxious and will try to avoid participating or interacting in speeches. Despite so, these very people are also aware of how you, the speaker, behaves towards them.

How to Identify One:

  • Shy
  • Lack of response
  • Not expressive
  • Does not like to participate

How to Handle This Type:

a) Do Not Assume

You won’t get much opinions or questions asked from a room full of these individuals, but don’t judge a book by its cover – they may not necessarily dislike or are bored of what you have say to say. This brings me to my next point.

b) Warm Them Up

Try welcoming them into the room with a smile on your face, so they’ll feel much more comfortable and relaxed. This creates a positive environment which makes them much more keen to voice out their opinions as well.

c) Ask for their thoughts

The Rocks are usually the most reflective members of an audience. Due to their detachment from the group, their opinions and thoughts are mostly unbiased and offer a fresh perspective into your topic or issue.

3. The Critic

This audience member is every speaker’s nightmare because all it takes is one mistake. One mistake and these people will jump on you like a pack of hyenas that finally cornered its prey. They will scrutinise your every detail and action before they deem you as a trustworthy or credible speaker.

How to Identify One: 

  • “Hi yes, I noticed that the second slide with the third paragraph overlaps the fifth paragraph with the second column on the first row”
  • Constantly questions your every intention while looking you up head to toe in scrutiny
  • Has a hostile or cynical attitude towards you or your topic

How to Handle This Type:

a) Welcome Them:

Listen to their comments and do your best to work with them rather than restricting them. This not only enables an open discussion; you may even get to gain a few insights from another person’s perspective as well.

In the end, they will also perceive you as a humble speaker who believes that their opinions matter too.

b) Agree with Them

If you still firmly believe your opinions are right, it’s okay to provide reasonable and tangible evidence to support your point. Just, make sure to do so in a calm and objective manner to avoid sounding defensive.

4. The Rebel

The rebel is basically someone who just wants to disagree with everything you have to say. Their reason for opposing you can vary. Sometimes it’s because they just hate your guts or worse – they do it because they think it’s fun to make the speaker squirm.

Either way, it’s important not to let them push your buttons or all the effort you’ve built for your image and credibility as a speaker will be thrown out the window just like that.

How to Identify One:

  • When You say the sky is blue, they yell back in protest, “No! Look out the window! It’s grey!”
  • Constantly finding ways to irritate you with irrelevant questions or statements

How to Handle This Type:

a) Turn the Tables

Most comics deal with this type by turning them into the target of the joke. This is good if you are naturally very good when it comes to improvised humour.

b) Do Not React

These types of individuals’ main goal are to fire you up so the worse think you can do is to let your emotions get the better of you.

One very quick way to stop them from constantly finding ways to get under your skin is to just stare at him or her with a neutral expression. They will eventually grow more irritated instead of the other way round since you’re not falling for their trap.

Winning Your Audience’s Trust

Now you know what to expect from the type of audience members you will be facing, it’s also equally important to know what you can do to gain their trust as a whole.

According to experts, trust affects a speaker’s credibility. This is because your audience view trustworthiness as your motivation to be truthful. Furthermore, gaining trust often makes audiences believe in your message as well.

Hence, here are the 7 Tips to help gain the trust and respect of your audience:

1. Embrace the ‘tough crowd’ 

“Embrace each challenge in your life as a an opportunity for self-transformation”  -Bernie Siegel

We all have to face a tough crowd at least once in our lives. It’s inevitable. But, instead of seeing this as a challenge, try turning the table around so that it works in your favour.

Come onto the stage with a positive mindset and approach them like they’re the best crowd you’ve spoken to. The key is to look at every laugh or any sort of interest in your speech as a gift. Think this way: Every laugh or moment a listener engages in your presentation is an affirmation that you’re doing my job.

Focus on what is working and put your insecurities and doubt aside. This is so you can free up your mind to work on the good things and go from there.

2. Don’t take it personally

So far, we’ve been talking about how you can gain the heart of your audience. But one sure fire way to lose them forever is to take their comments to heart.

We, as humans, are naturally driven by emotions. But sometimes, letting them get in the way prevents us from establishing a good relationship with our audience. To ensure this does not happen, focus on the result that you’re looking for and not on how the process is making you feel, or whether the person offended you.

Although this sounds simple, it’s easier said than done. This is especially so when we encounter a rude and unreasonable individual that steps out of line. Don’t stoop to their level. Instead, take a deep breath, remain calm and try to deal with this individual patiently.

In return, the audience will realise that you are being treated unfairly. Not only that, the audience will have a better and positive image of you as well. The rude individual on the other hand, will look like a jerk as a result.

3. Addressing the Elephant in the Room

There will be a point in time where something unexpected happens or the audience knows something embarrassing or controversial about you.

For example, it could be someone in the crowd that was insulting or throwing food at you before you could speak or a ‘scandal’ that you allegedly got into.

Either way, it creates an awkward atmosphere between you and audience. Hence why you should address it even more to get it out of the way.

If not, you risk losing your audience’s attention because they’re too preoccupied by the unspoken issue that you did not clear before your speech. This ‘elephant’ that surrounds the room is what’s hindering them from paying attention in the first place.

President Barack Obama strongly believes in this saying. He openly acknowledges his discomforts which often include his race, his ‘funny name’ and the fact that his father comes from a developing part of the world and once lived in a hut.

This is an uncomfortable topic for him as his background may make him seem less eligible than the other leaders in America.

Despite the discomforts he faces, he still addresses them head on with humour, easing the comfort of those to whom he speaks. The outcome? He successfully manages to lead his audience back to his main point.

4. Show you understand

No one and I repeat no one likes to be told that ‘they don’t understand’. So when someone in the audience decides to challenge your idea, don’t fight it; embrace it. Say: ‘Tell me more’ so you can have an effective, enlightening and calm discussion.

This will show your effort in trying to understand your audience and you are doing so by addressing their concerns.

Here’s an added tip: constantly ask for their opinion or thoughts from time to time. This makes them feel wanted and appreciated as they feel that what they say matters to you as a speaker.

5. Find the common ground 

A famous speaker for this is none other than former US President, Barack Obama. He has the uncanny ability to bring people together despite their differences. His method is simple, and it’s to focus on the similarities of him and his audience. This is how he manages to bring people of different backgrounds, race and ethnicity together.

So when you’re about to present, always ask yourself what are the shared beliefs, values, message or opinion you and your audience can agree on. This can help you gain their trust, flipping them from a tough crowd to future loyal fans.

Here’s a famous ‘I have a dream’ speech by Dr Martin Luther King Junior that brought people together despite their differences:

In this video, Dr King kept using the words, ‘I have a dream,’ before bringing his audience together with a common vision – the dream and the hope for a brighter future for America regardless of race, language or religion. This shared vision helped unite these people despite their differences in beliefs and values. 

6. Through storytelling techniques 

According to experts, recent scientific work is putting a much stronger emphasis on how stories change individuals’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.

It has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to data and statistics. Our brains activate on all our five senses which allows us to broaden our imagination and be part of the story itself.

If used correctly, storytelling can be a very powerful communication tool due to its ability to connect, gain the trust of and pique interest amongst the audience.

One example of a simple yet extremely effective storytelling technique is none other than ‘The Hero’s Journey Approach. This technique has a proven framework that never fails to keep your audience glued to their seats!

Here’s a video of Sir Ken Robinson talking about how school kills creativity. In the talk, he makes use of storytelling techniques to engage and hook his audience.

You’ll notice that he makes references through the story of others such as Picasso as well as his own personal stories to build rapport with his audience.

7. Ace your Q&A

It’s vital you Master the Art of Q&A. Many speakers are intimidated in this area but who wouldn’t be? It’s unchartered territory since you can’t know the questions that will be coming your way.

In short, this session will demonstrate whether you truly know your stuff.

This is the crucial moment where you either gain the trust and loyalty of your audience, or you completely lose them and your credibility. Essentially, it’s the segment of your talk where a two-way dialogue takes place. It’s not just a matter of conveying the message – it’s also receiving on your end as well.

In Q&A sessions, you may face a difficult questioner from time to time. In this setting, it’s important you know how to respond knowledgeably, calmly, and confidently. Don’t fear this obstacle but rather, embrace it. If you understand your content from the presentation, it’ll be half the battle won. All that’s left to do is to prepare questions to anticipate in advance and practice.

Summing It Up

So there you have it! These are the ways to handle and convince a tough crowd. Identify and understand the behaviours of a tough audience member so you can best approach them without compromising your credibility and image as a speaker.

Seize the opportunity to convince and switch a tough crowd with these tips:

  1. Identify the type of tough audience members
  2. Understand their behaviours and patterns
  3. React and approach them accordingly
  4. Embrace the problem and turn it into an opportunity
  5. Don’t take things to heart and dare to address the issues or problems
  6. Find common ground and show you understand your audience
  7. Engage your audience through storytelling
  8. Build your credibility through Q&A

Leave a comment below if you’ve applied these tips and if it worked for you!

The 3 Step Approach to Ace Your Persuasive Presentation

Everyone is blessed with a certain level of persuasive skills. Whether it’s a salesperson convincing a customer why they should buy a product or a mother convincing her child why he needs to sleep early – persuading is something that revolves around our lives whether we realise it or not.

This applies to persuasive presentations as well. It is a speech made with the intention of selling an idea, message, service or product to the audience. Some forms of persuasive presentations include sales pitches, legal proceedings and debates.

Persuasion is an art form, an effective weapon that impresses your ideas upon the minds of listeners.

Overall, a persuasive presentation is intended to reach people, convince them and then prompt them into taking action.

Although some are born with the art of persuasion, what about those who need to acquire it through practice? Here’s a definitive guide to help you step by step on how to frame and execute a great persuasive presentation:

The 3 Step Approach to the Art of Persuasion

According to one of the most articulate speakers, Greek Philosopher Aristotle, there are three forms of rhetoric to influence people: ethos, pathos and logos. You need to understand and skilfully apply the methods found in these three elements to conduct a successful persuasive speech.

Ethos (Credibility):

In every speech, it’s vital that as a speaker, you are knowledgeable at the topic you’ll be speaking about. This not only provides assurance to the audience that you know your content, it also shows you are able to clearly say what you need convey.

It’s important to follow these five steps so that you come in prepared and establish a favorable ethos:

1. Selecting a Topic

 People are naturally interested to stories that have a hook. This also applies for a speech. This ‘hook’ is none other than a speech topic. Every speaker wants their audience to be engaged. Hence, the first step to achieve this is they need to select a good topic that will interest their audience.

a) Brainstorm

A well-chosen topic is key to the success of a good speech. Brainstorming is a method that helps you generate topic ideas and it should feel less stressful than the other methods.

Once you come up with a list of potential topics, you need to identify what is a good topic depending on several factors such as who your listeners are and their interests.

Once done, start eliminating the topics one by one till you find the perfect topic. Brainstorming is a creative process. If you don’t put in the effort to produce a creative presentation, it will never touch the minds and hearts of your audience.

b) Tailor The Content of Your Presentation to Your Audience’s Needs

Understanding who you are speaking to helps make you more persuasive as a speaker. This helps determine how you can make your tone suitable for them and make the content relevant.

For example, if you are speaking to a young audience, you should find out how they speak and their capacity for understanding towards the topic. If you’ll be speaking about difficult topics like insurance, it doesn’t make sense to use a lot of technical terms or jargons since they definitely wouldn’t understand what you’re saying most of the time.

Remember, if you come into the talk without any effort to adapt to your listeners, it will be a definitive way to lose their interest. When they do not see a need to listen to your talk, how can you sell your idea in the first place? 

Hence, make an effort to show that the speech was tailored especially to them. This will raise your credibility as a result and show that you’ve done your homework in advance.

Questions to ask to get yourself started:
  • Who will be attending your presentation?
  • What are their goals, motivations, beliefs and values?
  • How can I customise the slide images to resonate with their industry or line of work?
  • What are the words I can use that are relevant to them or are used in their daily conversations

c) Make It Personal 

In order to change the minds of your audience, you need to win their hearts first. To do that, it’s important to add a personal touch to your topic.

One way to incorporate this is to pick a topic you are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about. It shows how much effort and time was spent on understanding and learning the topic.

This passion will naturally make it easier for you to add your own personal experiences, research, and stories. As a result, it will help your topic resonate with others as much as it resonates with you.

One example is Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” where she spent years studying human connection. In her talk, you can see she has incorporated touches of personal experiences and stories that make the talk heartwarming.

 d) Make It Interesting

Even if a topic is already interesting by itself, that does not mean you, the speaker can just stop there. Even the most fascinating topics become boring in the hands of an ill-prepared speaker.  You have to spend as much time as possible in making your message interesting so that your audience will get hooked on your talk.

So try to figure out how to put a fresh and personal spin on topic – especially if it has been talked about a lot already.

2. Organise Your Content

There’s no point having a great topic with the best content and ideas if it’s not organised in a coherent manner. All it entails is a very confused audience at the end of your speech which meant you did not convey your key message successfully.

a) Create an Outline

Outlines help restructures your speech so that it is clear and concise. After you’ve decided the points you’d like to bring up, start organizing them in a way where it can smoothly transition from one to the other.

b) Inserting important key messages at the start or end of the speech

Another method is to insert the important parts at the beginning or end of your speech. According to a study done by Murdock, people recall information better in the beginning and the end of a presentation. This helps create an edge for your persuasive presentation.

3. Know Your Content Inside and Out

One of the worst sins you can commit as a speaker is to read your script off a cue card or worse – look at your slides throughout as you speak.

Not only do you sound rigid, monotonous and boring, you’ll definitely lose your audience’s interest as a result. If you cannot engage your audience to listen to you, how are you going to sell whatever that is you are speaking about?

Many tend to memorise their script word for word in an attempt to ‘know their stuff’ which is just a huge recipe for disaster.

What if you get stage fright and your mind turns blank? Or you simply cannot remember? Any hesitation on your part could sprout doubts from the minds of the audience about your speech and its contents.

Hence, focus on memorising the flow of your key points as well as the overall arching message of your speech.

According to experts, understanding the content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others. This allows you to speak with conviction thereby convincing your audience as well. 

4.Confidence

 In order for others to have confidence in you and your message, it all needs to start with being confident in yourself first. By showing you are confident in your topic and yourself, this feeling with exude outwards towards your audience. And when they see this confidence, they’ll believe in what you have to say.

Confidence is key to making sure that you believe in yourself and that others believe in your too. Hence, the more confident you are, the lesser the reason for skeptics to doubt you and be convinced by your speech as a result.

Letting your nerves and stage fright get the better of you, however, will just show your listeners your doubtfulness and hesitation which will make it hard for them to be convinced with what you’re saying.

Confidence, however does not just come in the form of how you speak but your body language as well. This can mean having good eye contact and hand gestures to voice projection.

Pathos (Emotional Appeal):

The most eloquent speakers are found to focus the most on this component and with good reason. This is the main area to focus on when it comes to persuasive speeches because majority of people do things based on “feeling” or anything that connects them emotionally. In summary, emotional appeal is the key to persuade the audience.

Here are some ways you can connect with your audience emotionally:

 1. Storytelling Techniques

You want to capture the attention of your attendees with your very first words. To do that, start by telling a story. It’s important you do not bombard them with facts and data as it has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to hard facts.

Storytelling is one of the most effective approaches when it comes to persuading your audience to buy your idea, message, service or product. This is due to its ability to stimulate interest, increase engagement and help the audience understand what’s being said.

Hence, tell a short story to provide them with the vision of the goal. It also helps if you can make the story relatable to everyone involved so they are able to resonate with your speech. Storytelling is also extremely useful when it comes to deescalating the situation in a room full of people who may not be too keen on your ideas.

a) Hero’s Journey

There are many ways to tell a persuasive story but one of the most effective and foolproof methods is ‘The Hero’s Journey’ approach. This technique has the exact built-in mechanisms for creating the connection needed for any audience. This can result in an impactful speech that can inspire your audience to action

Described by Joseph Campbell as the The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the Hero’s Journey is the same exact tale every culture tells – just with different characters.

Typically the hero’s journey would somewhat go like this:

  1. The hero starts out as an ordinary person.
  2. He or she then gets a ‘call to adventure’—sometimes by choice or by circumstance.
  3. As the hero leaves the comfort of home and family to begin the journey, he or she faces life-threatening challenges along the way.
  4. The hero’s situation looks bleak and it further escalates to the Hero’s defeat.
  5. Then, just when all hope seems lost, the hero finds some inner strength to win despite the odds.

If you noticed, these tales of heroes have three things in common – the problem, the solution and the reward. These three elements are always or mostly used in every hero tale and it never fails to attract the audience.

Leverage on this three step approach to help make your speech much more engaging which will empower your audience in return.

2. Make Use of These Two Persuasive Words

There are words that hold more power in swaying our decision making than others. If we can learn how to utilise them, it’ll be easier to persuade our audience:

a) You

When you’re speaking, writing or even pitching to persuade, use first-person language. That means making use of the word ‘you’.

This word not only gets your audience’s attention it also makes them feel special – like they’re a part of something. Using ‘you’ makes you sound much more conversational and friendly which makes it easier to establish a connection with your audience.

Here’s an example: “You are capable. You are strong. And you can make a change in this world” This word is powerful as it holds your audience accountable for what you’re saying and instantly makes them feel involved.

 b) Because

A study found that using the word ‘because’ would make people more inclined to allow someone else to do something.

Here’s a proven scenario:

Person A: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”

Person B: “I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I need to make copies?

Look at both of these sentences. Are you more inclined to allow Person A to cut the line or Person B? Studies find that only 60% would allow Person A to cut the line while a staggering 93% will do so for Person B even if the reasons are ridiculous.

This is all because they simply heard the word ‘because’ accompanied by a reason. Human brains love explanations and hence we need to know why. Why do I need that feature? How does it benefit me? So what?

Your audience thinks this way as well. Hence, provide them with the why after the ‘because’ to further convince them.

3. Reinforce Your Message

It is vital that you drive your message home. This is to ensure your audience does not lose sight of the key message of your speech. Here are some ways to help reinforce your message:

 a) Power of Repetition

A study of managers in the workplace by Professors Tsedal Neely of Harvard and Paul Leonardi of Northwestern found that:

“Managers who were deliberately redundant moved their projects forward faster and more smoothly.”

Knowing this, try to apply the power of repetition in your speech to drive home your goals. Don’t rush trying to get your point across but rather, try to convey the message as many times as you can.

However, be creative in repeating your message. Do not say the exact same thing over and over again or you’ll just sound annoying. Instead, find other creative and effective ways to get the same idea across to your audience.

b) Visuals

Using visual aids like presentation slides or images not only provide the opportunity to enhance and drive your message home, it also provides 43% added recall according to Prezi.

As humans, we are all naturally visual people – even more so when it comes to listening. A study even found that those who were provided visuals during a speech remembered 55% more than those who only heard it.

Here’s an example: A speaker is giving a talk about the severity of plastic waste. Which one of the scenarios would make you more inclined to do something about this issue? 

Scenario 1: Speaker talks about why plastic is bad for the environment.
Scenario 2: Speaker shows devastating photos of the consequences when we ignore the severity of plastic waste.

Naturally, we would feel a sense of responsibility more so when a photo is provided.

Hence, make use of evocative images to stimulate emotions amongst your audience. It does not steal your audience’s attention but reinforces your key message instead. All while evoking a certain feeling in your audience which helps in persuading them to believe in your idea.

c) Colours 

Just like imagery, colours can evoke emotions in your audience as well. Colors signify different emotions and associations.

Look at this video to help you understand how you react to different color stimuli:

 d) Interactive Content

According to Time magazine, the average person has a very short attention span – they lose concentration after 8 seconds.

A study found that interactive ads were found to be twice as memorable as compared to static ads. Knowing this, you should find ways to create interactive content to further engage and persuade your audience. This can be done with the use of PowerPoint as you can add animations, transitions or even embed videos to spice up your speech.

Furthermore, recent statistics show that video content isn’t just effective, it’s also on the rise. Furthermore, 64% are willing to watch a video if it’s interactive. So if you find that your speech may be boring or full of data, try to present it in a form of an interactive video.

Here’s a video of Hans Rosling, one of the few speakers who know how to present data in a fun and engaging manner:

4. Adopt the Golden Circle Approach

In order to convince others to buy your idea, message, service or product, find out your purpose for what you’re doing.

Here’s a video of Simon Sinek, explaining how the Golden Circle approach is effective in making others buy your idea, message, service or product.

In the video, Simon Sinek mentions that many of us communicate from the outside in. This means we always start with What, How and then Why.

He explains that persuasive speakers do the exact opposite. They start from the inside out. This is also known as the ‘Golden Circle’ Approach:

  1. Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing
  2. How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing
  3. What: What is the result?

One example who makes use of this approach is Apple.

Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing? Their purpose is to challenge the status quo and they believe in thinking differently.

How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing? By making their products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.

What: What is the result? They happen to make great computers.

As Simon Sinek says: “People don’t buy what you do but why you do it.”

Find what you believe in and you’ll realise it’s easier to persuade your audience into buying your message and taking action upon them.

Logos (Logical Appeal): 

Have you ever found yourself arguing with a friend over something you definitely know is a fact but somehow they just don’t want to believe you? This is because you lack providing facts or evidence to prove you’re right.

Logos is the final seal of act to convince your audience into buying your idea. This strategy makes use of providing evidence and reasons to support your front. Here are ways to utilise logical appeal effectively:

1. Provide Evidence

Use evidence so that your audience cannot argue or doubt your point. This is because it establishes an objective foundation to your arguments, and makes your point more than just a mere speculation, personal opinions or prejudices.

These evidences can come in many forms such as:

 2. Solutions to Your Problem

Have you ever sat through a presentation and thought the speech was engaging, the content informative and stories compelling? You’re convinced by the issue brought up but you don’t know what to do with it.

This is because the speaker forgot to include one crucial thing– the solution. Without this, your audience will think, “What do I do with all of this new information?”

As a speaker, informing is not enough – take it a step further and show the audience how they can take action. And to inspire action, solutions must be provided. Although problems hook your audience, solutions are what activates the action.

Start adopting the “How will my audience change as a result of hearing my speech?” mindset. Your speech can empower the audience if they can take at least one action because of what you’ve said.

If the audience does take action, this means you’ve successfully persuaded them since they are motivated by your message.

“That tension helps them persuade the audience to adopt a new mindset or behave differently — to move from what is to what could be. And by following Aristotle’s three-part story structure (beginning, middle, end), they create a message that’s easy to digest, remember, and retell.” –Nancy Duarte

Knowing this, you should be prepared to provide solutions to overcome any obstacles or challenges your idea may face or anticipate.

Summing it Up

And there you have it! Leverage on the 3 Step Approach – Ethos, Pathos and Logos – to create a great persuasive presentation that’ll easily get your audience to believe in what you’re saying. If you want your persuasive presentation to have that cutting edge, take a read of some of our recommended books to help boost your persuasive skills as a presenter.

Remember:

  1. Identify a good topic and research on your content thoroughly
  2.  Organise and tailor the content to your audience’s needs
  3. Reinforce your key message
  4. Know the motivation behind your speech
  5. Back up your points and provide solutions

 

 

Reinforce Your Key Message with Rhetorical Devices

So, you’ve prepared everything you can to create an impressive presentation. Whether it was finding the perfect topic, conducting thorough research or even understanding your audience demographics. You even practiced for what seemed like the millionth time, making sure you’ve calmed your nerves and stage fright so you can perform your best on stage. But, there’s a problem. Almost every speaker is doing what you did.

This may not necessarily be a bad thing, but have you ever wondered what you can do to stand out from your competitors? The answer is none other than rhetorical devices.

As cliché as it might sound, rhetorical devices are the art of language. We can’t deny how much rhetorical devices can help to enhance your presentation. Not only will it help to make your presentation much more memorable and engaging for the audience, it will also definitely be able to grab their attention.

In this article, we have prepared a list of rhetorical devices that you can incorporate so that your presentations can have that edge:

1. Rhetorical questions

Rhetorical questions are used to lay emphasis on certain points of the presentation. Even though it may have an obvious answer, no answer is expected from the audience.

I’m certain many of you have subconsciously used this phrase ‘Who cares?’ when you’re speaking. This is a rhetorical question to show that nobody actually cares. Sounds pretty harsh doesn’t it? However, that’s the main purpose of a rhetorical question, to place extra emphasis on a point.

Many presenters make use of rhetorical questions either at the start or end of the presentation.

If you wish to use it in the beginning of your speech. It will leave the audience pondering about the question which will then make them anticipate for the answer afterwards.

If you choose to use this device at the end, it will often lead to a call to action from your audience. 

 

2. Tricolon

Also known as the rule of three, Tricolon consists of three parallel words or phrases which are placed next to each other without any interruption. The purpose of tricolon is to add a sense of wholeness, and empowerment to the presentation.

Here’s an example of a speech by Abraham Lincoln, ‘… Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’

Many speakers across the globe make use of tricolon to conclude their presentation. Another example would be from Mark Antony’s famous speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar – ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Lend me your ears’.

Not only does it create a humorous effect, it is also effective in helping the audience remember the key message of your presentation. That way, they are sure to take away something from your presentation.

 

3. Alliteration

Alliteration is a stylistic literary device, which occurs when a number of words with the same first consonant sound are placed close together in a sentence. The use of alliteration not only helps to create a musical effect that enhances the pleasure of listening to a speech, it also creates a poetic flow to the presentation.

For example: If you are conducting a presentation on being environmentally friendly, you can make use of the famous alliteration, ‘Reuse, Reduce and Recycle’.

Another example are brands like ‘Coca Cola’ and ‘PayPal’. These brands make use of alliteration in their brand name so that it can be easily remembered by their consumers which may help to enhance sales.

This can be applied to presentations as well. Alliteration helps to make information easier to remember as it attracts the attention of the audience due to the similar sounding words, which makes it sound a little catchy.

With that being said, many people have the misconception that alliteration depends on the starting letters of a word, however do remember that it isn’t the letters, but the consonant sound.

 

4. Anaphora

Ever heard of phrases like this – I came, I saw, I conquered also known as Veni, Vidi, Vici?

Phrases like these are known as Anaphora. Anaphora is the repetition of certain words or phrases at the start of a sentence which can help to amplify certain key words or ideas.

The use of anaphora in presentations can create a huge impact as it emphasises key messages and ideas often with strong emotions. It also helps the audience remember your presentation content much more easily due to the repetition of words which causes anticipation for the next.

 

5. Epiphora

Epiphora is the opposite of anaphora. It is the repetition of words or phrases at the end of a sentence instead of the start.

For example: ‘I want pizza, she wants pizza, we all want pizza!’

Do you feel that there is an extra emphasis placed on the word ‘pizza’? Furthermore, the repetition helps to string words and ideas together to create a key focus point, which in this example is the pizza.

By using Epiphora in presentations, it will help draw the audience’s attention to the important points due to the emphasis of the repeated words.

 

6. Anadiplosis

Anadiplosis, which means reduplicate, refers to the repetition of words. This device helps emphasise words differently whereby the word at the end of a sentence is repeated at the beginning of another sentence afterwards.

Here’s an example of the lyrics from The Wanted ’s Glad You Came:

Turn the lights out now, now I’ll take you by the hand, hand you another drink, drink it if you can, can you spend a little time, time is slipping away, away from us so stay, stay with me I can make, make you glad you came.

As seen from the example above, this device helps amplify and create emphasis on the repeated word. As a result, the lyrics sounds catchy and it can easily be remembered by others.

By applying Anadiplosis in your presentation, it is able to place emphasis on key points because people tend to focus more on the repetition of words. It may also differentiate you from other presenters if used appropriately.

This brings us to the next point.

 

7. Chiasmus

Anadiplosis is also part of Chiasmus. Chiasmus is when two or more words are balanced against each other by reversing their structures to create an artistic effect. This can also give pattern and rhythm to your presentation.

“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”

After reading this quote, do you find that you are more empowered by the second half of the quote? Well, I do. This is because chiasmus tend to lay stress on the second part of the sentence, and that way you’ll feel more inclined to it.

Besides that, chiasmus also gives structure and adds a poetic touch to a sentence, which helps the audience understand and remember the point much more easily, hence, adding value to your presentation.

However, be sure to not overuse it as it may confuse the audience. Whenever you are using a chiasmus, be sure to consider the relationship between the two words before turning it into the device, because sometimes, the two just wouldn’t fit.

Lastly, whenever you’re thinking of creating a chiasmus for your own use, do refer to other examples as a template and make it your own by changing either one or both keywords.

 

8. Simile

A simile is a figure of speech that compares one thing to another and is used to make a description sound more vivid.

Well, how do you identify a simile? You know you’ve identified one when you see ‘as’ or ‘like’ in the comparison. For example: ‘You were as brave as a lion’ and ‘She slept like a log’.

Similes can help to attract the attention of the audience during presentations as it encourages them to use their imagination to understand what is being presented. With the help of the comparison, the audience will also better understand the point you are trying to make as they can relate the point to the thing that you are comparing it with.

However, there is a misconception that similes are just like metaphors. The truth is, similes are like metaphors, but metaphors aren’t like similes. This brings us to the next point – metaphors.

 

9. Metaphor

Metaphor is a figure of speech that is used to make a comparison against another object which isn’t related but has something in common. In other words, metaphors directly state a comparison against another object. For example: ‘Time is money’. Both time and money are in no way related at all but, yet they have one thing in common: Both are valuable.

To simplify it even further, here’s another example.

Sarah and Jane are best friends. They aren’t related to one another, but they have one thing in common – Both are girls.

Do you get the gist of it? This is what differentiates metaphors and similes – whether the words used are related. If it’s not, it’s definitely a metaphor.

During presentations, metaphors can play a big part in engaging the audience as it encourages them to use their imaginations to understand what is being said to them. Also, it helps to get your audience to embrace your key message by tapping into their imagination. Lastly, transform your ideas into something that your audience can relate to by using metaphors. This way, your presentation may stand out from the rest.

 

10. Hyperbole

A hyperbole is an unreal exaggeration of ideas used to emphasize a real situation. Hyperboles are not meant to be taken literally, it just exaggerates the subject, giving a dramatic effect.

For example: ‘He’s got tons of money’. The word ‘ton’ is used to exaggerate this statement to place emphasis on how much money he has.

Hyperboles can be used in your presentations to add emphasis to the key message by comparing it with something exaggerated. By doing so, it develops a contrast between the two subjects so that it is clearer for the audience to visualise the impact.

 

11. Oxymoron

An oxymoron is formed when two opposite ideas are combined to create an effect that will leave a lasting impression in your audience’s mind.

The most common oxymoron phrase is formed when a noun is placed after an adjective with a contrasting meaning, for example: ‘act natural’ and ‘seriously funny’. However, the contrasting words may not necessarily have to be side by side, it can also be spaced out in a sentence, for example: ‘In order to lead, you must walk behind’.

During presentations, oxymoron adds flavor to your presentation by creating a comical and dramatic effect that literally makes no sense. The contradicting words also triggers the audience’s thoughts which leaves them to ponder about the oxymoron. By doing so, it helps to engage the audience throughout the presentation.

 

12. Personification

A personification is when a thing, idea or an animal is given human attributes. These objects are represented in a way where they have the ability to act like human beings.

Personification is also a way of using storytelling to modify your speech by personifying ideas or thoughts.

An example of personification is ‘The flood raged over the entire village’. The word “raged’ personifies the blood while also symbolizing the flood was really bad.

Personification help give a deeper meaning to your presentations which can captivate your audience. It also adds a realistic touch filled with expressions that encourages the audience to unfold a new and innovative perspective of your presentation. It can also simplify a complex subject by giving it human characteristics.

Here’s a video of Harry Baker incorporating personification into his slam poetry (0:43-4:01):

In his slam poetry, even though 59, 60 and 61 are just numbers, they were given human attributes to help him

 

13. Climax

There are two ways to view climax. Most people see it as the most intense and exciting part of something. These ‘climaxes’ are usually seen in movies and stories.

For example, in the movie ‘The Maze Runner’, when Thomas and the gladers went into the maze trying to find an escape route. During their search, some gladers fought the weird creature, also known as the grievers. Some died, and some managed to survive.

Another way of interpreting climax is when successive words, phrases or sentences are arranged in ascending order of importance and there will usually be a hierarchy between the events. For example, ‘If you think that’s bad, it gets worse.’

By using climax in presentations, it makes the audience anticipate on what is going to happen which also helps to build excitement and suspense.

By keeping the audience in suspense, it keeps them glued to their seats as well. Climax also adds a touch of drama into your presentation. Furthermore, it establishes a clear relationship of hierarchy between things. This can help the audience identify the key message of the presentation.

 

14. Irony

Irony is the contradiction between the intended meaning and the actual meaning of words used in a phrase or sentence. It may also be a situation that turns out differently from what is being expected.

In short, irony is the difference between appearance and reality.

A great example of irony is ‘The fear of long words is called ‘Hippopotomonstrosesquippedalio phobia’.’  See what I mean? It’s ironic as the term used for someone who’s afraid of long words is well, long.

Irony can create a powerful impact on the key message of your presentation as well as to create a sort of puzzle in your audience’s mind. It is also able to lighten the mood of your presentation because the two usually contradicts one another other to create a humorous effect.

 

Summing It Up

All in all, don’t miss the opportunity to make full use of any of these rhetorical devices so you can drive your message home. Let us know in the comments if it worked out for you!

Empower Your Audience with the Hero’s Journey Approach

Imagine this. You’re attending a presentation hoping to be inspired on a particular topic. Instead, all you notice is the presenter spilling fact after fact  just like the presenter before him. And the presenter before him. And the presenter before him. It just seems so… mundane. You simply cannot pay attention. Every presentation looks and sounds the same and none of the presenters stood out. In the end, you come out of the room bored and uninspired.

Constantly being bombarded with hard facts and data can be overwhelming, which can explain why we zone out from a presentation, lecture or speech after a while. According to the theory of cognitive load, our minds become overloaded and blank out if we’re required to process too much complex information at once. So what can you do as a speaker to empower and captivate your audience?

The Power of Storytelling

Enter Storytelling. Stories help to connect with your audience which makes it easier for them to remember your speech. They will also walk out of the room feeling inspired, driving them to take action. It has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to data and statistics. Our brains activate all our five senses which allow us to broaden our imagination and be part of the story itself.

However, story structures on their own aren’t enough. Stories only truly become powerful when the audience can experience the adventure and challenges the characters of the story face as well.

This is where the hero’s journey storytelling technique comes in. Almost all films make use of this approach and with good reason. It is the most powerful pattern out there for telling stories. Not only that, it has the exact built-in mechanisms for creating the connection needed for any audience. The result? An impactful speech that can inspire your audience.

Regardless of whether you’re trying to captivate a room of investors with your startup pitch deck or to boost your chances with your ICO deck during a private sale, the hero’s journey can be a powerful structure to utilise.

So what exactly is the hero’s journey?

Described by Joseph Campbell as the ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’, the Hero’s Journey is the same exact tale every culture tells – just with different characters. Though the journey’s process can be in various manners, all of them have a few things in common – the call to adventure, a mentor, challenges, victory and the return.

The 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey

“[Heroes] are only mortals, ones that try their best to accomplish feats while fighting against external and internal forces. The only difference between them and other people is their response to the call to be heroic” – Julie Harris

There are typically twelve stages that compose of the Hero’s Journey. Not only does
each phase helps the audience to connect with the Hero, it also leads the audience to the key message of your speech.

We’ll use the film, KungFu Panda to reference these 12 stages of the hero’s journey:

1. Ordinary World:

The ordinary world is the hero’s home and a safe haven. Here, we get to understand the Hero’s background before his or her journey begins. We also get to identify the hero’s urges, needs, and problems and what makes the hero uniquely them. The idea is to ensure that the audience is able to relate to the Hero who helps them become emotionally invested in the story.

E.g. Po is a commoner who idolizes the Furious 5 and is unable to achieve his dream of being a Kungfu Master as he helps out with his Dad’s noodle restaurant.

2. Call to Adventure:

The Call to Adventure sets the story rolling by disrupting the ordinary life of the Hero, either making him or her face a challenge. Depending on the situation, the hero may either accept the adventure by choice or due to a circumstance that forces him or her to. This is a crucial moment in the story, where an alarm goes off for both the hero and audience. This issue that the hero faces is what will get your audience’s attention. This ‘Call to Adventure’ can take a multitude of forms such as a message, announcement, a sudden disaster, the arrival of the villain or a death. The idea, however, is to convince the audience why they should care about this issue that has surfaced. Only then can you get them glued to their seats.

E.g. Po is proclaimed the Dragon Warrior – the one kung fu master worthy of receiving the Dragon Scroll and capable of defeating Tai Lung.

3. Refusal:

Depending on some heroes, they may initially refuse the ‘call to adventure’ due to fear or insecurities. The hero is not receptive to changes preferring the safety of the ordinary world. This sign of weakness makes the hero relatable to the audience as it shows everyone struggles with self-doubt and insecurities.

4. Meeting a Mentor:

The Hero then meets a mentor to gain confidence, insight, advice and training to overcome their initial fear. This is because some heroes may not wish to or are unable to rush into an adventure without gaining some experience and wisdom through his or her mentor. Some examples include: Po when he meets Master Shifu who will train him to be a KungFu Master (KungFu Panda).

Here, the audience gets to be part of the journey the hero takes to improve and strengthen him or herself as an individual.

E.g. Po meets his red panda master, Shifu, who puts Po through a torturous and agonizing training regime.

5. Crossing the Threshold:

Once the hero crosses the threshold, it shows that he or she is finally committed and ready for the Journey. Crossing the threshold will directly affect the Hero, raise the stakes and force some action. External forces may push the Hero ahead, such as an abduction of someone close to the Hero (Taken) or the hero may cross the threshold when the earth’s population is on the brink of being wiped out in half (Avengers: Infinity War).

Internal forces may also push the Hero to accept their ‘call to adventure’. Such examples include Belle sacrificing herself in exchange for her father’s freedom (Beauty and the Beast) or when Rapunzel finally musters the courage to leave her tower with a man she just met (Tangled).

E.g. Shifu decides that Po is ready to receive the Dragon Scroll.

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies:

This Stage is the most important for the hero and audiences alike. Throughout his or her adventure, the hero will encounter obstacles and fights with enemies. They may forge allies or may even form a Hero team as well (Avengers Assemble). The Hero must prepare for the greater obstacles that have yet to come. He or she also requires this stage to test his or her skills, power and commitment to the Journey. For the audience, seeing the hero struggle as he or she fights obstacle after obstacle will naturally make them root for the hero. This hooks your audience to stay as they now want to find out whether their hero is able to succeed or not.

E.g. Tai Lung (enemy) escapes from Prison. Po and the others attempt to defeat him.

7. Approaching the Inmost Cave:

The Hero must make the preparations needed to approach the inmost cave after facing a setback or a failure in a mission. He or she is now forced into trying a new approach or idea. This makes the audience empathise with the character, forming a type of connection with him or her as they understand that everyone experiences failure at some point of time in their lives.

However, some confident heroes may bypass these preparations and head straight to the inmost cave. Despite so, a new approach is necessary after they faced their setback – whether it be a teammate dying along the journey or whether the villains have won the fight during that moment. In summary, the approach is nearing the climax of the story.

E.g. As Shifu decides that Po is ready to receive the Dragon Scroll, it reveals nothing but a blank reflective surface. Unable to understand the message of the scroll, Shifu and Po are thrown off balance by it which distracts them from fighting Tai Lung (enemy) to the best of their abilities.

8. The Ordeal:

The Ordeal marks another crucial moment in the story, where a transformation takes place. This stage is where all hope seems lost and the hero is on the brink of losing. Some examples include Mulan when she was cast out after the soldiers found out she was a girl (Mulan) or when powerless Thor loses to Loki in a fight on earth (Thor).

The hero finally faces the ordeal where not only do they confront their greatest fear but also confronts the most difficult challenge and experiences “death”. Only through ‘death’, ‘loss’ or ‘failure’ can the Hero be reborn, experiencing a resurrection that makes them stronger. This is where the hero sees to it that he or she finishes the journey till the end.

E.g. A distraught Po finds his dad who, in an attempt to console him, reveals that the long-withheld secret ingredient to his famous “secret ingredient soup” is ‘nothing’, explaining that ‘to make something special you just have to believe it is’. Po realises that this is the message of the Dragon Scroll, and goes back to confront Tai Lung.

9. Reward

The hero manages to overcome the ordeal successfully and has earned the reward. The reward can come in many forms like greater knowledge, wisdom or recognition. The Hero deserves the right to celebrate. At this point in time, the audience has become part of the story and will rejoice with the hero as they felt a connection with this character.

E.g. Po becomes a formidable challenge for Tai Lung (enemy), eventually defeating him in combat.

10. Road Back:

After the celebration, the hero finally sets out on the road to return to the ordinary world where he or she continues to live in his or her regular life.

E.g. Po returns to the Valley of Peace.

11. Resurrection:

While on the journey back to the ordinary world, the hero encounters his or her final challenge which will test the hero. This will be the toughest challenge the hero will face. Most Heroes will come out of the challenge reborn or transformed as a better version of his or her ordinary self. This is due to the lessons and insights from the experiences gained and characters that he or she has met along the road.

In some cases, this battle may not necessarily be just about the Hero’s life. It may also include other lives or the entire world that may be at stake. Thus, the Hero must prove that he or she is willing to accept his or her sacrifice for the benefit and safety of the ordinary world. Other allies may lend assistance, but at the end of the day, the hero must rise to the occasion.

 

12. Return:

The hero finally returns to the ordinary world with his or her final reward. In most tales, the return with the elixir not only resolve storylines, it also restores balance to the ordinary world. The hero may also embark on a new life with another adventure stored for them, influenced by the journey traveled. The return also helps the audience understand the meaning and key message of the hero’s journey, bringing a sense of completion to the story.

E.g. Po is praised by the Valley of Peace and earns the respect of the Furious Five, who fully acknowledge him as a true kung fu master.

 

Incorporating The Hero’s Journey Technique in Your Speech

So now you have a better understanding of the cycle of the Hero’s Journey, you’d know that most of the stories go somewhat like this:

The hero starts out as an ordinary person. He or she then gets a ‘call to adventure’—sometimes by choice or by circumstance. As the hero leaves the comfort of their home and family to begin the journey, he or she faces life-threatening challenges along the way. The hero’s situation looks bleak and it further escalates to the Hero’s defeat. Then, just when all hope seems lost, the hero finds some inner strength to win despite the odds.
Good prevails over evil. The hero then returns to his or her ordinary life, but with a new addition – wisdom. This wisdom is then communicated to the rest of society for everyone’s benefit.
If you noticed, all the tales of heroes have three things in common – the problem, the solution and the reward. You’ll notice that these three elements are always or mostly used in every hero tale and it never fails to attract the audience. Leverage on this three step approach to help make your speech much more engaging which will empower your audience in return.

How Is the Three Step Approach Effective?

a) The Problem

This is what really keeps your audience glued to their seats. There’s no point providing all the hard information and data if you cannot make your audience understand why the problem is a problem. However, once you convince them otherwise, they will be interested and curious as to what will happen next.

Many make the mistake of identifying the solutions first but not the problem when it comes to their speech. Some don’t even mention the problem at all! The problem is crucial as it gives reasons why the audience should care about the issue.

So what? Who cares? What’s in it for me?

This is the reality of the audience’s mindset. The quicker we grasp this, the sooner we’ll craft and deliver presentations that engage our audience.

b) The Solution

“A presentation that doesn’t seek to make change is a waste of time and energy.”
–  Seth Godin

Have you ever sat through a presentation and thought, “Interesting but what can I do to help?” Overall, the content was great, stories were compelling, and valid points were brought up about the issue. Everything except one thing is missing – the solution.

Without this, your audience will think, “What do I do with all of this new information?”. As a speaker, informing is not enough – take it a step further and show the audience how they can take action. And to inspire action, solutions must be provided. Although problems hook your audience, solutions are what activates the action.

Start adopting the “How will my audience change as a result of hearing my speech?” mindset. Is there a way you can make their lives easier, help them grow, or do something better, faster, or more efficient than ever before? Your speech can empower the audience if they can take at least one action during your speech.

c) The Reward

All great stories have one thing in common and it’s the key takeaway of the story. After addressing the problem and providing the solutions, this is where the audience will learn the message that you are trying to convey.

The message is the core of your speech as it helps you to create a narrative that provides information, inspire action and solidify the public opinion. Not only that, it ensures your whole story is consistent which is crucial as it ensures your speech does not get out of point. For instance, the moral of “Mulan” is that we shouldn’t let limitations stop us from doing what we want.

Here’s a tip: To ensure your whole speech remains consistent, develop your key message first to get the ball rolling. Distill it into one or two very specific yet concise lines that you can easily repeat for your speech or presentation.

This key message will be a reminder of why you are making your speech or presentation in the first place.

Here’s a video of an inspiring talk by chef José Andrés who made use of the three elements in his storytelling to empower his audience:

 

In summary

And there you have it! An in-depth understanding of the step-by-step phase of the Hero’s Journey. Use the three core elements found in this storytelling technique to personalise, connect, engage and inspire action amongst your audience. Let us know if this approach worked for you in the comments down below!

 

Hone Your Negotiation Skills With These 20 Tips

Say you’ve gone into a negotiation, confident you’d clinch the deal, only to find that you’ve been flat out rejected or worse – the potential prospect suddenly decides they don’t want to work with you at all. What went wrong?

Many people make the mistake of thinking that the best negotiation skills are through dominating or bullying someone into submission. If not, they make the mistake of being too submissive instead.

The result? A recipe for disaster. Hard-bargaining not only ruins deals but future business relationships as well. Being too submissive, on the other hand, incur more losses.

But whether we like it or not, everyone is a negotiator and has something to negotiate every day whether it be haggling over the price of a new car, persuading a toddler to eat his peas or convincing a client why they should choose your pitch. This skill is part of our lives and is inevitable – especially in business transactions and disputes.

There are many effective and different kinds of negotiation strategies and tactics but what makes one a great negotiator is the ability to combine these strategies to provide a win-win solution in the right place and at the right time. All in all, great negotiators are those who are hardworking, have good timing and have a little bit of luck on their side.

Hence, here are 20 tips that will help hone your negotiating skills so you stick out from the average Joes:

1. Plan ahead

According to experts, effective negotiation is 80% preparation. So if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Before every negotiation, it’s extremely important to come prepared with a plan and backup. A good plan consists of thorough research and homework of your opponent and their situation before hand.

This is because when you come in knowing your stuff, you’ll instantly sound much more confident – and that much more convincing. Doing otherwise will only make others take you less seriously and you may also not strike the best deal.

 Here are some questions to ask yourself before a negotiation:

  • What is my end goal?
  • Are these the right questions to ask?
  • What questions will my opponent ask?
  • How do I answer my opponents?

2. Don’t be a pushover

How you sound, act or behave can determine what others will think of you – especially during first impressions. If you let others control your actions or easily give in to them, there is no way you can ever clinch a successful deal. To do so, you must come in confident and assertive yet not too aggressive at the same time. Not only will you convince the other party, you will also get the deal done on your terms.

Although not everyone is naturally confident, the first step is to look the part. A study found that 93% feel non-verbal communication affects their opinion of others. So be conscious of your gestures, your posture and how you hold your head.

 3. Asking (the right) questions

 Here’s an example: you want to buy the cheapest fish in the market. You ask all kinds of questions like how many shops sell this particular fish and which is the most expensive to the least. You even find out the name of the shop that sells the freshest fish. But, you did not ask the right question which was where you can buy the cheapest fish.

Although it’s good to ask as many questions as you can to gain insight, it’s much more important to ask the right ones. Asking the right questions not only saves you a lot of time, it provides you with the information you need first and foremost so you can negotiate much more effectively. Therefore, always prioritise and think of the questions that will benefit you the most. The other questions will provide bonus information.

 4. Lay everything out

As Harvard Business School professor, Deepak Malhotra would say, “negotiate multiple interests simultaneously.”

In his book “Negotiating the Impossible”, it explains that by having several offers or issues laid out by you and your opponent, it makes it easier for negotiators to make wise tradeoffs. This means they can fight for what matters to them most while giving up what the other side values more.

Many of us make the mistake of negotiating one issue at a time which will often lead to everyone fighting hard for whatever that happens to be offered. This will less likely provide what everyone truly wants out of the deal.

 5. Smile!

Sometimes, negotiating deals can get a little too intense between you and the other party. So what can be done to help deescalate the situation? Showing positive facial expressions.

This is because your facial expression have the ability to influence your emotions and others around you as well.

One of the ways to show positive facial expressions is to smile. It naturally creates a higher frequency of sound in your mouth, changing the overall tone of your voice. And due to the human instinct of mirroring, it will also likely make others smile along with you which then improves the mood of everyone in general. However, it is important to smile genuinely. A forced smile will only end up making you look confused and frustrated.

6. Build bridges instead of walls

The most effective negotiators are professionals who know their business and don’t let personalities and irrational behavior interfere with their mission. While they know it is good to have power in a negotiation, they are also thinking long-term for their company. This means building a good relationship with their opponent and not straining it.

Building good relationships with other parties is essential especially if you are negotiating with them on a regular basis. This is because if the other party was threatened into submission, they probably will make it harder for you in the next negotiation or worse, stop negotiating with you again, possibly cutting off any future business.

 7. Focus less on your limitations and more on your opponent’s

Focusing on your weaknesses or limitations too much will naturally make you believe your offer is less desirable than your opponent’s. This then makes you believe you are in a less powerful position which can affect your negotiating. Do not dwell on your limitations as your opponent will be able to sense your concerns and grab onto that weakness to their advantage.

Instead, focus on their’s instead. Asking the right questions and finding out what they’re trying to solve and why they need to solve them, will help you gain leverage in a negotiation. This is because gaining the upper hand when it comes to negotiating is about focusing on the pressures that your opponent face.

  8. Know your opponents

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”

By further understanding your opponents better, the easier it is for you to know what their wants and needs are which puts you in a favourable position. To understand them better, always ask as many open-ended questions as possible to gather all the details you can about them.

So if you’re going to ask for something, take the time to find out what motivates that person. Then, make an offer that fuels their motivation. It is important to make them feel as if they are the ones being satisfied as it makes them much more open to giving you what you need.

But, if they still do not want to agree to your terms, don’t lash out and attack them. Instead, think what could possibly motivate the other party while you try to achieve your desired goal as well.

With that said, this does not mean that you give them everything they want – it’s about fulfilling what their basic requirements are while fulfilling yours. Make it a win-win situation.

9. Adapt to the situation

Many of us seem to have the misconception that being assertive, dominant and fearless will be sure fire way to help us clinch the deal. But in some cases, the key to a successful negotiation isn’t exactly about being dominant but rather about finding common ground.

Experts like Researcher Scott Wiltermuth explains this concept over at the Harvard Business Review where successful negotiations are more about finding a complementary relationship than it is about being assertive. This sometimes mean being submissive.

This is achieved when two parties reach dominance complementarity whereby one person in an interaction behaves differently from the other. This means if one negotiator acts submissive the other will act more dominant. Research shows that these individuals who achieve dominance complementarity reached better deals than pairs who are not. In short, this means learning when it is the right time to be aggressive and when not to to be.

10. Listen More than You Talk 

“If I listen, I have the advantage, If I speak, others have it.”

Listening sounds simple but it takes effort, energy and patience to do so effectively. Many would be surprise of how impatient others can get while a person is speaking, cutting into their conversation before the speaker can finish.

One of the biggest misconceptions about negotiating is that people feel the need to ramble on and on. They tend to have this perception that more things get done if they talk more.

Instead, of talking more time, listen more instead – Studies prove that great negotiators are those who are able to uncover more needs of others than their less successful counterparts. This finding is important especially for sales people since they make their living by negotiating.

So listen. You can find out what the other party is looking to get out of the negotiations by letting them speak more. This in turn helps you gain insights of what the other party is willing to compromise and where their position stands – The more you know about their position, the clearer it is to for you to offer a deal they can’t resist.

Here’s a video about the power of listening by William Ury, one of the world’s best-known and most influential experts on negotiation:

 

11. Remain Calm in Dire Situations

It is vital to remain calm under stressful or pressurising situations during a negotiation. A good negotiator is one who does not combust and let their emotions get the better of them. They do not panic and are able to think clearly throughout the process, coming out of the negotiation successfully and unscarred. Bad negotiators on the other hand, end up missing opportunities and creating bad relationships with other prospects which makes it more disadvantageous for themselves.

One way to ensure you do not panic when the other party is pressing you is to always think positively, focus on your strengths and always remember what your end goal is.

Furthermore research shows we stand a greater chance of success if we focus more on our strengths. When under pressure, try to think of a positive situation, thought or outcome. This will help distract your brain from focusing on the negativity when things don’t seem to be going so well.

“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.      – Han Selye”

This is because thinking positively helps your brain to keep stress in the back of your mind. Just think about it, when you are happy or optimistic, do you ever feel stressed and anxious? Exactly, you don’t. This is because positive thinking shifts your attention to a “stress-free” zone in your brain.

Here’s a video explaining how we can turn our negative energy into something positive:

12. Learn to deal with negative behaviour

Humans are naturally emotionally-driven. But sometimes, letting your emotions get the better of you can end up destroying relationships and businesses. It is evident throughout history that ego and emotions have destroyed many corporations and businesses.The moment you lose your temper, you are in danger of creating bad ties with the prospect when dealing with them in the future or worse, losing them as prospect forever.

Instead, try to detach yourself from your emotions during the situation and focus on closing a deal – something much more rewarding and beneficial in the long run. It’s important to remember that negotiations aren’t personal attacks on a particular person, but rather they are just a form of business.

13. Do not rush a negotiation

One thing is for sure; no one likes to be rushed.

Here’s an example: Imagine being a customer, contemplating on whether you should buy a product and a salesperson is incessantly trying to rush you to the cashier to buy it. The same goes for negotiating.

Nothing will make you look more desperate than being in a constant rush to try and seal the deal. It’s great when a deal is closed quickly so you can reap the profits sown but it’s better to be patient.

Not only do you risk annoying the future prospect, you may also skip over the important points, which can incur losses on your end.

Furthermore, your managers or bosses will not be happy to hear you rushed to close a deal without covering all the necessary bases. Even if you are tight for time, make sure you cover every possible point and not miss out anything important.

 14. Have a win-win mindset

The best outcome is when a solution satisfies both you and the other party. To see to it that there are no losers at the end of the deal. This is, undoubtedly, the most preferred negotiation anyone would love to be in.

And this is possible. But it means being willing to put differences aside so you can listen carefully to what both of you want. And then working together to find a win-win solution.

This win-win mindset will not only make you leave the room getting what you want, but it also helps deepen the bond between you and the other person.

This is because you’ve come to appreciate the courtesy and respect the other person has shown you – and likewise with them. If you’re lucky, they may want to work with you again as a future prospect in the long run.

15. Always make sure price is the last negotiation

Never negotiate the price until everything else has been negotiated. This is because money is mostly the only thing your company will ever receive from a buyer.

Furthermore, agreeing on the price first can put you in a disadvantageous position and at risk of a loss. This is especially so if the prospect starts negotiating other terms of the deal after the price has been established.

Ensure that you’re only negotiating the price when it’s the last thing standing between you and a deal.

16. Don’t give in too early

Resist the temptation to give in too quickly when someone asks for a concession. That person is not entitled to anything. And, you shouldn’t feel pressured to meet their needs either.

Giving in too early often results in the decrease of value of your product, solution or services. It may even be the permanent set expectation for future negotiations which can be disadvantageous for you in the long run. This brings us to our next point.

 17. Always get something in return

It’s perfectly normal to give concessions in a negotiation from time to time. However, do it in moderation.

The biggest mistake people make is to constantly give something away without getting something in return. This will make your opponent feel entitled to these extra concessions. In the long run, it can make them feel dissatisfied during future negotiations since they’ll start to expect more.

Instead of giving in all the time, try getting something in return as well. Make them earn these concessions so they’ll appreciate everything you’ve given up to them. This is to ensure they do not take you for granted.

For example, if a prospect wants a discount on the price, make it conditional on a longer contract. Or, if a prospect wants something else thrown in with their purchase, make it conditional on signing a deal immediately.

The arrangement can be made in any way so long as you’re also getting something in return.

18. Be realistic

A study conducted by Forbes found that negotiators who do better than the average have high but realistic goals.

Great negotiators observe, calculate and rely on their gut feeling to get a good read on what might happen and what might not.

They also have a profound understanding of what’s in the field of play and what’s beyond, making them good decision makers. As a result, their trades, ideas and solutions are often a success.

19. Learn to walk away

Sometimes, we know a deal can’t be made and that’s okay. There’s no point wasting you and the other party’s time if both of you cannot settle.

However, many seem to have this misconception that they must clinch the deal which may backfire on them. For instance, if you constantly give large concessions just to get deals, you’ll only be incurring losses at your end.

In short, know when a deal is no longer attainable so you know when to stop. If a deal cannot be salvaged or does not benefit you, it’s okay to walk away. This can be challenging  when sales are slow but remember that there will always be someone to sell to if you keep your pipeline full.

20. Practice, practice, practice!

This is the most important and most the underrated strategy. Without enough research on the topic, we can all agree that not many are able to sound convincing when negotiating. Well, the same goes for practicing.

Negotiating like any other skill, requires practice in order for an individual to be good at it. To improve, try to condition yourself to negotiate at every opportunity.

Not only will it help you become more attuned with negotiating, it also increases your success rate over time. In addition, you become much more confident and well-respected amongst your peers, customers and even opponents.

Summing it Up

 Overall, negotiation is a mix of art and science. It takes a combination of street smarts, unwavering discipline and dedicated time spent on research, the thought process and execution.

Once you’ve mastered negotiating, the hard work will be worth it. It’ll help unlock your ability to get the best deal possible under any circumstances.

With that being said, negotiating does not have one format or structure that’s always the right answer. Instead, it’s about understanding how to convince your prospects with the tips provided in the right situation. So what method you use will determine whether you successfully clinch the deal.

And there you have it! Make full use of these 20 tips to help hone your negotiation skills. Leave a comment below if it worked for you!