Have you ever faced a situation where you have invested time and effort into preparing a presentation for your client, but they are somehow just not convinced?

“How can I win them over?” you might wonder.

The New York Times bestseller, ‘Influence: The psychology of persuasion’ by Robert Cialdini shares six formulas in persuading your customers. Here’s a summary of how you can translate these ground-breaking persuasion techniques into a more persuasive presentation by design.

1.Social Proof

social proof persuasive persuasion robert cialdini

Think about the latest blockbuster film you’ve watched recently. Got it? Awesome. Now think about why you paid attention to it in the first place.

It’s likely that you saw the countless recurring trailer ads on YouTube or heard your friends talking about the movie. Maybe you were interested in it, yet unsure if it was worth the watch.

What most people do next is to switch over to Google and start searching for some reviews. That’s where you’ll find polarizing sentiments on whether a movie was a blockbuster hit or miss. Did it influence your decision on whether the movie was worth it? Well, that’s social proof in action.

Life is too complicated for us to evaluate every element during decision-making, so we use shortcuts to help us decide on what’s reliable in a snap. To explore the power of social proof, social psychologists conducted an experiment in 1968.

First, they stationed a single person on a street corner and had him look up at an empty sky for 60 seconds. Only a tiny fraction of passers-by stopped to observe the man and his actions.

The following day, the psychologists added four more people staring into the sky and this time, there were four times the initial number of people who stopped to gaze at the empty sky. At the end of the experiment when 15 sky-starers were placed on a street corner, more than 80% of passers-by stopped to look at the empty sky. From this experiment, it was observed that people have the tendency to make an assumption –  if many people are doing something or sharing a common belief, there must be a good reason why.

Presentation tip: Applying the theory, including positive reviews and testimonials from your customers in your presentations gives you an advantage in winning your audience over. It leaves the impression that many have enjoyed your service or product, hence your audience would be more inclined to what you have to say.

Having star-studded endorsements from your clients makes your presentation much more credible and trustworthy. Ultimately, it funnels down to a simple concept: The more people do something, the safer the option would seem.

When doing so, remember to make it tie in with your overall message seamlessly. Don’t make it seem too desperate or egotistical – your audience will not be as impressed by that.

2.Reciprocity

Reciprocation persuasion persuasive robert cialdini

“Reciprocity is a part of every society,” Cialdini says. A classic experiment from the 1970s found that people bought twice as many raffle tickets from a stranger if he first gave them a can of Coke — this is proof that even tiny favours can work to your advantage. Likewise, your buddy is more likely to help you move that couch if you’ve ever given him a ride to the airport.

When we were growing up, we were conditioned to give back to those who give to us, and not doing so would make us feel uncomfortably rude. Applying this concept, we can instill a sense of obligation within our audience by giving a simple gift that will cause them to feel indebted towards us. This increases the chances of the audience complying with your request.

Presentation tip: Say you’re pitching to an investor about your latest business idea. Providing him with a sample of your product would not only make your pitch much more memorable but also help him absorb your pitch better. Additionally, giving him a physical gift in the form of your sample instills a sense of indebtedness towards you. In essence, your gift of a free sample may not cost you a lot but can invoke reciprocative action from your prospect.

3.Commitment and Consistency

commitment consistency persuasion persuasive robert cialdini

The hardest part of all is getting your audience to say yes. Invented in 1966 by Freedman and Fraser. The “foot in the door” technique gets your audience to agree to a small request first, before, slowly making your way towards a bigger idea, which they will eventually find harder to refuse.

Evidentially, in a research study by Sherman in 1980, she called residents in Indiana and asked them if, hypothetically, they would volunteer for the American Cancer Society. Three days after, a second experimenter called the same residence and there was an increase in 4% as compared to the first day.

When your audience complies with your small yet reasonable requests, it makes them more receptive towards the larger request afterward.

Presentation tip: For example, if you’re proposing a new campaign to your bosses, start off by getting them to agree on something small, such as the campaign idea or tagline. Ask for buy-in at different junctures of the presentation, then follow up with something bigger such as the venue and lastly, the budget. This greatly increases your chances of gaining approval for the overall project. An important pointer to take note of is that you have to get their agreement in all the segments for this to work.

Using this tactic helps you to convince your audiences as well as gain their approval, leaving you with hardly any objections to your proposal. After all, if people commit to an idea or goal, it is likely that they would stand by their commitments.

4.Authority

authority persuasion persuasive robert cialdini

Doctors are great examples of everyday authority figures we encounter. Think about it. Do you ever question the medicine that they prescribe you?

If you know what’s good for you, you’ll pay close attention to their diagnosis and heed their advice.

We’ve been conditioned to listen and be more easily influenced by people whom we consider to be authorities and the symbols that they carry.

Just like our everyday authority figures, you want to seen as the expert in your respective field.

Having confidence and the trustworthiness of your content is essential in invoking authority. Being an authority figure reflects your expertise in your idea or topic, and gives you the credibility which persuades your audience that you are the right guy to turn to in the sector. For example, think of the most prolific motivational speaker you know. 9 out of 10 times, Tony Robbins comes to mind. He’s perceived to be the expert in his industry and for that same reason, people part with thousands of dollars during his presentations because they trust him and his words.

Confidence

Presentation tip: To portray confidence as an authority figure during your presentation, you first have to believe in what you are pitching. It is essential to be sure of what you are preaching and keep your nervousness at bay. The outfit that you are wearing and your postures can say a lot about you and how prepared you are. Interestingly, confidence is not something you can just manufacture. It’s a combination of many little things, from the way you dress to the way you give eye contact to people.

Credentials

The second factor is the credentials or titles that you hold. In order to prove your credibility, introducing yourself as the Founder, CEO or even (Dr.) would make you seem like you have the expertise and power in your field. There are two ways in which we can go about doing this.

Presentation tip: Firstly, it could be having someone else to introduce you and your past experiences. Amateurs often rely on superficial cues, but having a title would instantly boost your dependability on the topic or idea. The second method is to introduce yourself. Simply having 1 or 2 slides about you before your pitch would do the same trick. The chances of your audience being persuaded by your presentation with the use of credentials will increase due to the perception of your reliability.

Here is a link that shows how President John Hennessy introduced Steve Jobs in a Stanford Commencement Address.


Competent

Presentation tip: Lastly, you need to appear knowledgeable, competent and certain when communicating your ideas. Having information and statistics to back up your assertions shows that you are certain of your pitch. It increases your perceived trustworthiness on the topic and makes it much easier for you to influence your audience.

Authority is displayed through your confidence, credentials, and competence in presentations. These three factors contribute directly towards persuading your audience, as you are seen as someone who understands the topic intimately.

5.Scarcity

scarcity persuasion persuasive robert cialdini

People often append a higher value to scarce things than those that are more abundant. What do I mean by that?

“Limited stocks available, get yours now!” Does this ring a bell?

If your answer is “yes”, then you have encountered one of the most common phrases of scarcity in your life.

Generally speaking, people are loss-averse creatures, we are more likely to take action when we are aware of what we will lose as opposed to what we can gain.

This tactic leverages on the visceral sense of urgency which scarcity creates. When trying to sell at the end of a presentation, try offering a discount only for a short period of time. It’s likely you’ll notice prospects who were on-the-fence suddenly spring to life to act on your offer.

Presentation tip: For example: during your presentation, you may want to emphasize that the offer made will only last for a certain period of time. Seasonal holidays such as Christmas or New Year’s special can be used to “justify” your limited time offer. Even memorable events such as company anniversaries can have the same effect. With the notion of time running out, it invokes a sense of urgency for fear of losing out on the better deal.

It can also be done by pitching your presentation as an exclusive business which only a few have the opportunity to work with. For instance, limited products available.

Presentation tip: By highlighting the limited amount of stocks available, it persuades your audience to take action now. Ultimately, it rides on a simple psychology effect that things are more valuable when they are less available. This puts pressure on them to get theirs before everything runs out. Eventually, you are encouraging your audience to take action now rather than tomorrow.

6.Liking

liking persuasion persuasive robert cialdini

With almost anything in life, we prefer doing it with people we like and enjoy being around with. The same concept applies when we’re doing business. More often than naught, clients are more inclined to work with someone they have positive feelings toward versus a stranger. So how can you get your clients to like you more? Here are 3 different aspects of the liking principle which you can use in your next presentation.

Compliments

Let’s be honest here, we all enjoy compliments, even if it is as simple as praising an outfit or receiving an award. By complimenting others, it will naturally make them like you more and helps you get into their good books while remembering you. Don’t forget to make it seem natural – avoid anything that appears too forced.

Presentation tip: A simple way that you can compliment your audience: “it is an honor to be here today, and thank you for taking your time to travel here for this presentation.” This makes them feel important and connects you instantly to the audience.

Establishing Similarities

Ever wondered why people with the same music taste seem to have a natural connection? Having commonalities during your presentation helps you to build a bridge of comfortability between you and your audience. Sharing the same preference over something allows for the creation of an instant connection with your audience. It helps them to relate to you and your presentation and gains their interest in the topic you’re covering.

Establishing similarities can be done by building rapport before the presentation starts. Get to know your audience and use it to your advantage. It could be as simple as having similar sports interests or travel experiences. These common similarities will help you get them interested in the topic you’re covering.

Presentation tip: With the help of your new-found knowledge, you can insert a story or experience at the start of the presentation that is relevant to your audience’s interest. After all, we tend to be much keener and attentive towards people who have the same preferences.

In summary:

  1. Have confidence, prepare your credentials and know your topic well
  2. Gather positive testimonials or reviews
  3. Provide tangible gifts
  4. Create scarcity through limited time or stocks
  5. Leverage on similarities and give compliments
  6. Get them to agree on something small first

Presentations that persuade effectively can be really tough to craft, but with these six persuasion techniques, you are now equipped with the skillsets and some new presentation ideas to convince your audience. All the best and don’t forget to smile!  

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Jenessa is a marketing executive at HighSpark. In her free time, she enjoys sipping on a hot cup of Starbucks coffee and putting together visually creative presentations.

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