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.
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 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.
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:
- 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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing
- How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing
- 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:
- Case Studies
- Powerful Quotes
- Expert Testimony
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.
- Identify a good topic and research on your content thoroughly
- Organise and tailor the content to your audience’s needs
- Reinforce your key message
- Know the motivation behind your speech
- Back up your points and provide solutions
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