My friend Ron Tsang wrote a book on Public Speaking called “From Presentation to Standing Ovation.” I highly recommend the book as it is content rich, succinct and highly, instantly actionable for speakers and presenters.
In it, he references Aristotle and talks about persuasion. As Jim Rohn says, we must not confuse Presentation with Persuasion. Just because you are on stage, doesn't mean that people are going to follow what you have to say. Sure, they may listen, but the point of speaking should not be just to get others to listen. They should be driven to ACT upon what they hear.
Giving a Speech is Good; Causing Transformation is Golden.
In addition to the 3 methods mentioned by Ron Tsang, here are 2 more tips to comprise the 5 Paths to Persuasion that transform your advice to audience action.
PATH #1 – Make them Believe in You
When you speak, make people believe in who you are, and that you have the credibility to give them advice. There are 4 main ways in which to do this:
• Credentials - If you have degrees or certifications that relate to what you are speaking about, let people know that you have them. Lead with this information, however also tell your audience how they will benefit because you have these accreditations.
• Career Path - Sometimes, a lack of degrees and diplomas, can be compensated by duration in a certain career. For example, people will believe that you can speak competently about health and fitness, if you have spent 15 years as a Personal Trainer or Health Coach. Use the length of your time in a certain field as credibility.
• Course of Life - It is not always a career that can serve as credibility. There are times that we go through tough times in our lives. Those rough patches can serve as someone else’s roadmap to success. If you have been an alcoholic, and have overcome a decade long battle with the disease, that alone will qualify you to speak to certain audiences about perseverance and overcoming adversity.
• Celebrities - Finally, if you have worked with a recognized name, or gotten a celebrity endorsement, that can work to your advantage in building credibility. However, even if you don’t have that, you can talk about famous authors or speakers whose work you have researched when speaking. Use the success of others to backbone your advice to your audience.
PATH #2 – Make them Think
When you speak to an audience, a golden rule of persuasion is this: when they reflect on their own lives, they remember your message. Can you create a picture in your listener's mind about their own lives, as they think about what you share about yours? Many speakers share a message, expecting that the audience will go home and act upon it. Most do not. However, you have a much greater chance of that happening if you make the audience think about a similar situation in their own lives while you are still speaking.
Here are 3 ways to do that:
Method 1: Ask Period Questions
Is there a time period that you can get your audience to reflect on? I can remember a good speaker friend of mine ask an audience, “Do you remember where you were when OJ took that famous ride in his white Ford Bronco?” That questions created a picture in all of our minds as to where we were and what we were doing on that infamous day. Any picture that a listener creates in their mind as a result of your words will increase the odds that your message will stick.
Method 2: Ask People or Place Questions
Are there people or places that are common to both you and your crowd? “Do you know anyone like this?” after describing someone in your story. “Have you ever been standing in a room, then forgotten why you were there in the first place?” A common situation to most. Asking questions about people or places common to your story will cement the picture of your situation in your listener's mind.
Method 3: Ask Pondering Questions
These questions challenge your audience to immediately think about their own lives. They push your audience to create change. They are questions that appeal to the nobler motives of your audience. “Are you willing to get up 20 minutes earlier in the morning to change the course of your life?”. “Do you have the courage to stand up when someone tries to put you down?”. These are examples of pondering questions. Questions that may get under your audience's skin, but will also get in their hearts. Making people a bit uncomfortable when you speak often has the dual effect of making them think.
PATH #3 – Make them Feel
They don't remember what you say, they remember how they feel when you say it. There is no point in speaking if you do not touch the listener's heart with your words.
Here are 2 ways to ensure that your speech contains more emotion.
Tip #1: Storytelling
Nothing connects like a story. You have likely heard that storytelling sticks and sells. You are probably sick of hearing it so I won't belabour it. Just remember this: there is NEVER a presentation that cannot benefit from adding in a story (or 2).
Tip #2: Speaker Dialogue
The second way to ensure a greater emotional connection is to bring your audience from the past to the present. Bring them from hearing your story, to re-living your story with you. How do you do that? By speaking the lines of dialogue that your characters use in your story. Don't just say “He asked me to stay.” Add some flair by bringing the conversation into the present. Instead say “She looked me right in the eye and said, 'Please, don't go.'” Remember – Conversation over Narration.
PATH #4 – Make them Fear
The fear of pain, or the desire for pleasure. According to speaker, author and coach Tony Robbins, these are our 2 greatest motivators. Of the two fears, remember this one – PAIN.
When we were young, most of us received the “or else” warning from our parents. Do “this” or else “that” happens. Do what is required, or you will receive a result that is not desired. Common, negative parenting at its best, yet effective.
Think of your audience in the same way. Often, your well-intended advice may go unheeded if you simply tell your listener why it is a good idea to take positive action. Your words will hit harder if you tell them what will happen if they DO NOT take action. Make your audience fear the results of their lethargy.
Now, I know you may feel uncomfortable calling people out directly for doing nothing. Here's how you do it – use the words “Most People”. When you point to someone else, but still make it look like you're talking to your audience, they are going to feel the urgency of your message, without feeling insulted. For example, saying “Most people never pursue their dreams”, is much better (and will be received more positively) than “You are not pursuing your dreams! Get up and go!”. Now, that second statement may be effective, and you may want to pull out a more direct call to action at times, but most of the time, the former approach is best.
Whatever you do, remember that sometimes you need to give the thorns with the roses.
PATH #5 – Make them Motivated
That being said, everyone wants to be made to feel good. They want to be left on a high. They want to leave your presence with a sense of fearlessness, not futility. In speaking, you can do this by using what I call the “Triple E Encouragement Method”. Use your speech to touch on the following three areas to build your audience up before you finish. Why 3? Because people have various hot buttons. Some are motivated by money. Some are motivated by impact or mission. Some are motivated by family. Some still by prestige. By touching on the following areas, you will touch the various desires of your audience, thereby motivating the largest number of people possible.
“Triple E” Element 1 - ESTEEM
We all care how we look to other people. Anyone who says they do not is not telling you the truth. If you can show someone how they can shine in front of other people, they will follow the advice that you share. There are members of your audience that will want to “keep up with the Kardashians” if you will. They want to be seen. They want to be recognized in front of their superiors, family or friends. Show them how they can have this, and they will follow your guiding advice. Let's take an example of goal setting. Simply saying “You'll be seen by others as a 'go-getter'...” will hit the hot button for the people looking for “Esteem Encouragement” and they will act on your advice.
“Triple E” Element 2 – EXCEED
Admit now that you want more in life. For this element of your audience population, show them how they can have more by heeding your words. Yes, there are some people that DO simply want more money. There are some that want more “things”. There is nothing wrong with saying that people can exceed their current status in life by following your advice. You will motivate some this way, and while money and material possessions are not the be all and end all to life, you cannot deny their importance to many of us out there.
It's time to stop pretending that you don't want more in life. If you truly do not, that's fine. However, most people simply say that they don't want more, not because it's true, but because they feel guilty for admitting it. They don't want to be judged by other people for their desires. Remember this – your feelings and desires are like annoying people – they won't leave you alone. Admit them. Feel great for wanting them. Pursue your passions and goals and stay oblivious to the judgement or negative words from others.
“Triple E” Element 3 – ENJOY
As adults, we have lost our sense of fun. There is a reason that children smile on average 10x as much as adults. For some people in your crowd, simply showing them how they can enjoy life a little bit more is enough. Most people just want to smile a bit more. They want to wake up feeling a sense of purpose and enjoyment. They just want a little more fun. Using our goal example, simply saying “You'll wake up in the morning before your alarm clock goes off because you'll have a new zest and energy for life!” will be enough to get some people off the couch ready to take action.
STOP simply Presenting....Start Persuading.
These...are the paths to persuasion.
Kwesi Sekou Millington (@KwesiSekou)
Speaker, Mentor, Coach
Kwesi Millington helps speakers, presenters and youth to connect with their audiences and master their messages using the power of storytelling in their speeches & presentations. He is a Certified Public Speaking Coach & Youth Mentor.