Principles of persuasion

The three elements of Aristotle’s ancient art of rhetoric, ethos, pathos and logos, are also known as the persuasive appeals, and any public speaker should be (or become) familiar with them.

In this post, I will dig a bit deeper into the principles of persuasion, and explore what it takes for business presenters to appear convincing, credible and trusty in front of their listeners. The six points below are based upon Robert Cialdini’s work, published in his 1984 book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.”

  1. Reciprocity: humans tend to return favors to somebody who has done something good to them. Cater your audience with good content, an inspiring presentation and a positive experience. Probably they will want to give you something back.
  2. Liking: we take a more positive stance towards people that we know or that we like. Introduce yourself, break the ice, and explain to your listeners why you’re here. Some of them will start looking at you as a good acquaintance and open up.
  3. Authority: men and women have come in to listen to and learn from an expert. Explain them why you have ‘the right to speak’ and why they should listen to you. Your reputation, job title and a quick résumé may certainly help, but also your body language, clothing, and even the use of accessories such as a laser pointer may be instrumental to the perception of your authority.
  4. Social proof: listeners often look to their neighbors in the room to guide (and approve) their decisions and (re)actions. So, always look for friends and allies in the audience that can contribute to a positive and constructive atmosphere.
  5. Commitment: if people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are likely to stay consistent with that commitment. Start a dialog with your public and try to get their buy-in for your ideas. Poll their opinion, let them share their views or ask questions, and take their comments seriously.
  6. Scarcity: the less there is of something, the more it is worth. Announce that you’re going to bring content that is exclusive, exceptional or contains things that you’ve never presented before. They will certainly pay more attention to your words.

I am not sure if the above principles of persuasion are to be considered science (as Dr. Cialdini positions them) or just common sense. Knowing, understanding and empathizing with your audience (and the people around you) is always key to connecting with them. Use these rules wisely and complement them by tools such as power and influencer quadrants.

friendly_persuasion

But also don’t forget always to be honest, respectful and authentic. Persuasion is not about telling lies, cheating or fooling on people. The best way to charm your audience is by being truthful, while staying your friendly self!

Other articles and presentations about this topic that are worth reading:

Don’t feed the chameleons

Sometimes (I am sure that my colleagues at work would even say often) crafting a business presentation is considered a last-minute job. And when there’s little time left for being creative yourself, it’s tempting to rely upon material that others have created before you. Nothing as easy as making a slide deck by cutting and pasting slides from existing PowerPoints into yours.

Should it be a surprise that 99% of these cut‘n’paste slideshows look like chameleons, that change colors, fonts and layout with every slide transition?

chameleon

Read my words: look and feel do matter! If you want your audience to perceive you as a professional, then never compromise on the layout of your visuals.

  • Real estate: Don’t overdo. Beware of creating slideuments. Apply the same template to all slides. Use plenty of white space. Limit the amount of bulleted slides as well as bullets per page.
  • Colors should contrast with the background. Don’t put together too many colors on one screen. Avoid using red text on a white or black background. Use tools such as Shyam Pillai’s add-in to select and customize your PowerPoint color schemes.
  • Fonts must be readable from the back of the room. Be consistent in style throughout the whole deck. Don’t mix too many typefaces. Avoid script fonts. Bold and italic are good to emphasize text, underline isn’t.
  • Images are there to complement or emphasize your message. Don’t insert standard clip art that adds no extra value (we all know the man climbing a bar chart, don’t we?) Avoid mixing line art and photos.
  • Vocabulary: Consequently use the same terminology everywhere. Beware of acronyms and abbreviations. Don’t use jargon or slang.

So next time you need to build a business presentation, start well in advance and take your time to tune each slide. Don’t take existing material for granted. Be creative. Be consistent. Be professional.

And if you have some time left, take a look at the blog posts below: