You are the duck in the lower left section of the photograph above. You have been assigned to persuade the flamingos -- or at least most of them -- to fly south for the winter now rather than in two months. But they strongly believe that they do not have to act now. They are warm where they are, well fed, and so they see no need to make any decisions.
You have to make them believe that you are important enough to be listened to and to take your advice on how to act, even though they are bigger, more colorful, and think that they are more important than you.
Next, you have to convince them, or at least the flamingo leaders, to consider your proposal and change their attitude about postponing the flight.
Then, you must get them to act: in short, get them to start flying?
How would you accomplish all of that? Would you jump up on a big rock and start quacking -- I mean, talking? Do you, as a duck, understand what it is like to be a flamingo? How do they think, what is important to them, what makes them change? You do not have much time to achieve your goal before they begin getting hungry for roast duck.
You now know the challenge of persuasion.
Here are my tips for being effective at being persuasive in presentations rather than being impressive at Powerpointing.
- Remind yourself that the audience is not required to hear you. Your job is to get their attention, shift their attitude, and hopefully change their behavior concerning something you are passionate about -- like flying south for the winter.
- No matter if your audience is flamingos or a professional group at a conference or six colleagues in a conference room, your first objective is to get their attention. How many presenters have you heard who go on endlessly but have lost the audience's attention after a few minutes? They were so absorbed in their content, or technique, or PowerPoints that they forgot about you, the audience.
- You won't grab attention by over-talking or showing dozens of PowerPoints. People choose to focus on what interests them most at the time. You hope they are focusing on you, the presenter, but it could just as well be their mobile or what they would rather be doing than sitting there bored.
- Determine what benefit you are offering them in exchange for listening to you -- innovative ideas, unusual insights, solution to a particular problem? -- or are you simply giving them more information than they are likely to forget because they cannot connect it to some benefit for themselves. Keep reminding the audience of benefits.
- Connect emotionally with the audience. People learn best by connecting with people who connect with them emotionally. How do you do this?