Those of you of a certain age may recall a short-lived TV series in the ‘70’s called The Persuaders. To be honest it was rather unremarkable other than for starring Tony Curtis and a pre-Bond Roger Moore. But the name sprang to mind the other day when a blogger issued a plea for presenters to stop informing and start persuading.
If you think about it most presentations seek only to dump data on an audience. It’s the default setting. People are asked to deliver a talk and opt to throw a load of information at the audience, hoping that some of it sticks (sounds a bit like a marketing strategy!). But in doing so they’re short-changing the audience AND under-valuing their own capabilities to connect and persuade.
The trouble with the information dump is it doesn’t work for either party. The presenter is presumably there because he/she knows something the audience doesn’t, so there’s a status advantage right away. What a wonderful opportunity to influence their behaviour in some way, to change the way they think or feel about something!
And for the audience to be taken on some kind of journey in this way is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than the traditional data dump experience, the cause of many a death-by-Powerpoint.
It seems to me that our notion of ‘presentation skills’ training is more about keeping the audience awake and mildly interested in what we’re talking about. It addresses the mechanics, the ‘above-the-line’ skills that presenters often lack.
But this strikes me as a bit negative. It sets the bar too low. Are we really just aiming for competence? I prefer the term ‘connectation skills’, those ‘below-the-line’ aspects of a really moving talk that engages us on an emotional level. That’s the way to persuade people. Here’s a few ideas:
- Talk about something the audience cares about. Make sure it’s relevant to them and their situation. Aim to stir some emotional response in your audience.
- Fill the room with your energy and passion for your topic. This is positively seductive. Remind yourself you’ve got something valuable to offer.
- Distribute your energy throughout the room. Make everyone feel included.
- Occasionally make eye contact with selected people and appear to be talking directly to them. Then return to ‘whole-room’ mode.
- Tell stories that are relevant to your audience and your message. Talk about people rather than abstract statistics or cold information. Tap into people’s emotions.
- Engage the audience by asking them questions, giving them exercises to do or letting them handle a prop.
- Decide where you want to take your audience; what’s the destination? Play the role of driver and navigator and make them feel they’re on a journey.
- Give them a parting thought, something to do when they leave the room.
In simple terms, give it some welly! Keep it raw, authentic and passionate and don’t worry too much about slick style. Embrace these concepts and you’ll soon join the ranks of The Persuaders!