The Art of Persuasion

Persuasion is the process of convincing others of the merits of your position, idea or issue thru presenting facts, the use of logic…and avoiding any inter-personal issues that could become distractions and thereby blocking your audience from seeing and persuasionthen accepting your argument. Persuasion therefore is a two-fold process.

1. Presenting your case:

a. Broadly state the outcome and success story that you believe will result if your course of action or plan is adopted and put into place. Be as specific as you can, but don’t make any “heads in the cloud” statements or promises. Be sure everyone understands your objective and the features and benefits of achieving it.

b. Outline briefly what the challenges and barriers to success are and what resources will be needed to implement or to proceed.

c. Proceed to present in suitable detail what it is that you propose…your idea, solution or course of action. In advance you need to have thought through how much detail is appropriate for your audience. Some audiences – bosses and others – want a great deal of detail… graphs – charts, etc. They are “numbers people” and need numbers to understand. Other audiences are “concept people” and just want to understand your concept and how things will generally work. Part of this depends on how much faith your audience has in you, your past history of being on target with ideas, decisions and actions.

d. You need to build your case step-by-step. Take the temperature regularly to ensure that you haven’t lost anyone along the way, saying something like “Everyone with me? Any questions? OK… let’s proceed.” Pay attention to your audience… and look for any signs of confusion and if questions reveal that an earlier point was missed…go back and cover that ground again. When you have fully made your presentation…do a quick review…ask if there are any more questions…and then ask the decision-maker(s) when you might expect a decision.

e. You also need to think through ahead of time what your presentation format will be; will you use visual aids such as a PowerPoint presentation, or some other graphics? And hand in hand with that is what kind of “leave behind” or handouts you will utilize. If you use a PowerPoint presentation, you can print all of the PowerPoint slides – six to a page – in color or in black and white. You also need to decide whether to distribute your handouts in advance… so that your audience can make notes on them.

2. Remember we said there are two aspects to persuasion? The second one is avoiding any inter-personal issues that could become distractions and thereby blocking your audience from seeing and then accepting your argument. An overview of these issues include:

a. Know who your audience is and what is at stake for each of them. For example, a plan to expand the use of technology and automaton may be great… but if it results in cutting staff, be aware that may be indeed a blow to someone’s turf…their power and influence in the organization. When a “stakeholder” has something to lose as a result of your plan, you may well benefit from talking with them in advance…saying something like “..when I make my pitch to the team tomorrow, it might have an adverse impact on part of your operation… but hear it out and we can then discuss its impact on your department.” Do an inventory of who is going to be involved with your presentation and the resulting decision to be made. What do they have at stake? What might their fears be? Be sure to address them in your presentation.

b. Be aware of whose handiwork you are going to modify or eliminate if that will be the impact of your proposal. Here too you may want to meet with them before the presentation and say something like “…I know that the data center was your baby and that you set it up…and wanted you to know that my proposal to the team tomorrow will have an impact on that…and I ask that you hear me out tomorrow.”

c. Finally… be sure to mentally be alert for any mannerism that annoy or frustrate people. Jingling the change in your pocket for the men… pulling at strands of hair for the ladies. Examine your speaking style for repetitive and annoying words and phrases such as saying “OK” after every sentence, and slang and lingo that might annoy others. Never, never use profanity or discriminatory words or phrases. Be 110% “politically correct”!!

Successfully persuading others involves influencing them. The late (and great) Cavett Robert, a world-renowned motivational speaker said “Influence is the ability to cause others to think, feel and act as we desire”. Use your powers of persuasion to influence your audience to adopt your proposal … or at the very least …as a springboard to modifying it for the benefit of the organization. Good Luck!!

If you want to know more of the art of persuasion – see the Wikipedia link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persuasion

And a great Forbes article on line:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonnazar/2013/03/26/the-21-principles-of-persuasion/

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