7 ways to persuade your audience when you present

This article highlights 7 suggestions to help you deliver presentations to difficult or non-receptive audiences.Photo Show of hands

When you present you will always have a mixture of opinions, pre conceived ideas and types of people in the audience. Some will be on your side and totally supportive of your messages, some will be indifferent and some will need plenty of convincing.

Successful presenters are able to initially pace their audience and then lead them to where they want to take them. They do this by adapting their style and their content according to their audience. They realise that the presentation is not about them and their ego.  It’s about their audience and taking them with you on the journey.  They get in to pace with their audience, then lead them successfully.  Pacing and leading.  Pacing first, and then leading them.

 7 suggestions for persuading your audience 

1. Get as much information as you can on your audience before you present to them

Use online tools such as Google, Twitter and Linked in to research your audience. Do some of them have blogs? Do you know people that a lot of them know, like and trust. People tend to like people who are like them. The more you know about your audience, the stronger position you will be in to influence them.   Do they belong to groups and associations you may be affiliated with?  By understanding your audience you will be in the best position to influence them.  Knowledge is power.  Like a boy scout, do your homework.

2. Position yourself, your background and  your credibility to address this group

Don’t assume they all know who you are. Big mistake. If you are being introduced, email the person introducing you a note with how you would like to be introduced.  Mention in the first 2 minutes of your presentation who you are, what you do, how you help others and critically the value you will be providing to the audience today.  During your presentation refer to experiences you have had. Sprinkle regular interesting examples throughout your talk.  I’d also suggest you mention that people can email you if they would like to receive a copy of your slides or access any of the reports / case studies you discuss.

3. Challenge the non believers early in your presentation

Highlight examples when you have shifted your view on something and why this happened.  Most of the time people want to remain consistent with their beliefs.  Creating shifts in beliefs is no easy task.  Highlighting how your opinion changed as a result of an experience you had recently may encourage them to open their minds.  I read a book a few years ago an Afghani refugee who spent 3 years in Woomera Detention Centre.  After reading his thoughts about beauracracy, strange customs and dealing with people he didn’t know, I started to question some of my long held assumptions.  Your skill if you want to persuade others is to challenge them as to why they think the way they think. Are they zealots or bigots (don’t ask them this!)? Why are they so sure that their way is the best way? Open them up to fresh ideas.

4. Be genuine and sincere

Please don’t try and be someone you’re not.  The number one thing that audiences are seeking from a presenter is sincerity. They will believe you if they can see the sincerity in your body language, gestures and facial expressions. These need to be in sync with the words you are using.  It is all about congruity. Great presenters are comfortable in whom they are and the message they are presenting to their audience will then come across smoothly and naturally.

5. Challenge them to do something as a result of the presentation

Suggest that they do 3 things within 24 hours of your presentation. Write them down if need be get them to share with someone else what they will be doing as a results of your session.  Recall the Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step”.   Ask the audience to email their opinions to you.  Encourage people to make contact with you via email, Facebook, Linked In or over a drink at the end of the session if time permits.  People rarely shift their long held opinions as a result of one event.  It’s a series of steps.  You can only take one step at a time.  

6. Tell real stories about real people

Use names, people, places and dates.  Stories are a very powerful way of connecting with an audience and helping to shift their opinion.  Selecting the best stories for your audience is a skill. Have a wide range of stories that you can use. Great presenters are always looking out for fresh stories.  Consider a recent project, holiday or personal experience.  Are there not stories that could be told about those experiences?

7. Use clean and simple visuals

A picture paints a thousand words.  Audiences will be moved by powerful visuals.  People, art, great photos all make for great slides.  Go easy on the bullet points and complex charts. Research highlights that a message will be less effective if the presenter is speaking whilst presenting using bullet points.  Put a bullet to your bullet points.

Posted in Presenting; Tagged Presenting; Posted by Steve Herzberg

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